Gere is delightful in the story of Norman Oppenheimer, a fixer mostly in his own mind. 3.5 stars out of 4.
Everything you need to know about Joseph Cedar’s smart little drama “Norman” is right there in its subtitle: “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.” (Which is, in and of itself, irresistible — when’s the last time you saw an American movie with a subtitle?) There’s a faint tongue-in cheek tone, an old-school formality, and an upfront statement that this movie is the story of one man, flaws and all.
That man is Norman Oppenheimer, played deliciously by Richard Gere, and he’s a fixer mostly in his own mind; he’s the sort of person who’s desperate to be on the right side of things — always making introductions, saying that he knows-a-guy-who-knows-a-guy, trying to put people and money together. (His sad little business card reads “Oppenheimer Strategies.”)
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Norman,’ with Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Stevens. Written and directed by Joseph Cedar. 118 minutes. Rated R for some language. Several theaters.
The film takes us through the story of Norman’s association with an Israeli politician (Lior Ashkenazi), which begins with Norman ingratiating himself by doing the man an expensive favor, then enjoying his rise in status when the politician becomes prime minister a few years later. And then — well, we know what tends to happen to people who fly too close to the sun.
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It’s a character study full of small pleasures (Michael Sheen and Dan Stevens showing off their American accents; Charlotte Gainsbourg lending her soft intensity to a few scenes; Jun Miyake’s playful score) and one fine central performance.
Gere, who somehow seems to make himself physically smaller here, creates a character both infuriating and endearing. It’s fascinating to watch Norman watching conversations among people more powerful than he is (which is pretty much everybody); he’s constantly watching, waiting, trying to judge just the right moment to slip a word in.
Late in the film, Cedar briefly zooms in on a bicyclist stopped at a light, doing that weight-shifting jiggle that’s necessary to keep the bike from tipping over, and you realize that’s Norman’s life — back and forth, back and forth, trying desperately not to fall.