Sept. 24, 2017
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'Norman' Review

May 17, 2017, 12:00 am

Norman Oppenheimer might have the same last name as SantaFamous philanthropists and the guy who gets the credit for facilitating the atomic bomb up there in Los Alamos, but his life apparently had fewer headline accomplishments. That’s not to say that this ass-kissy and handsy fellow, part stalker and part detective, has not accomplished plenty. He spends all day cold-calling, hot-calling and otherwise pestering a smattering of his vast network of his New York Jewish friends to trade favors in this film originally subtitled the much-more-descriptive The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.

Richard Gere (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) sheds any hint of his heartthrob calling card to don the role of not just a pathetic schmooze, but a pained loner who is either really good at making connections or really bad at it. He’s pushy when he needs to be, quiet and captivating when he needs that instead—yet Oppenheimer’s matchmaking is still flawed. When he befriends a rising star in the Israeli political sphere (a chiseled and poised delivery from Lior Ashkenazi), the protagonist in this affair ends up in over his head. His first clue is the impulsive retail therapy for his mark: a pair of shoes worth more than $1,000. But the bluffer and bullshit artist is undeterred.

Prepare to spend lots of time listening to the lyrical sounds of Hebrew and reading the English subtitles, a respectable choice for a time when Americans don’t want to feel at the center of it all (and for a film shot half in Tel Aviv).

Notable in a supporting role is the plain-faced investigator Alex, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who effectively channels every woman everywhere who has ended up on public transit next to a man who feels entitled to conversation.

It’s never clear how Oppenheimer makes a living, and she’s quick to get on the case. Is he a delusional name-dropper or a victimized mensch? That one might be for history to sort out, too. (Julie Ann Grimm)


5

+ Heavy on the intrigue and bullshittery
- Drags for nearly two hours


Norman
Center for Contemporary Arts,
R,
118 min


 

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