Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Richard Gere plays an aging New York fixer in the funny, charming 'Norman'

By: Ann Hornaday The Washington Post
May 19, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 4:15 am
0
Caption +
(L-r) Richard Gere as Norman Oppenheimer and Lior Ashkenazi as Micha Eshel in "Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer." MUST CREDIT: Niko Tavernise, Sony Pictures Classics

Starring Richard Gere, Steve Buscemi, Josh Charles, Charlotte Gainsbourg; directed by Joseph Cedar; 117 minutes; R for some obscenity

In "Norman," a delightful semi-screwball comedy from Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar, Richard Gere plays the title character, an aging New York gadfly whose eye is always on the main chance.

An inveterate dealmaker, name-dropper and chatter- upper, Norman isn't above chasing down a hot financial prospect during the latter's morning run. Wrapped in a camel-hair coat and natty- looking cap, he's oblivious to the bad vibes he creates, ending even the most mortifying encounter with a chipper "I'll call you!" (Not incidentally, the film's subtitle is "The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.")

As the film opens, Norman is trying to get a deal together with an elusive financier named Jo Wilf (Harris Yulin), roping in Norman's lawyer nephew Philip (Michael Sheen) to acquire an in. Later, he attends a gas and oil conference where he sees an Israeli trade minister deliver a visionary talk, and he stalks him to an upper-crust boutique, where the minister, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), is eying a pair of expensive wingtips.

Cedar films the pivotal scene when Norman and Eshel meet from inside the shop, resulting in a wonderful piece of silent cinema that sets the tone for the rest of the film. As Norman's and Eshel's fates intertwine, the filmmaker evinces a superb sense of visual storytelling, using imaginative staging and camerawork to give "Norman" the feel of a modern-day fairy tale.

That approach is altogether appropriate considering the nebulousness of Norman's world, which runs on such intangibles as relationships, favors and proximity to power. Combining the dry wit of a latter-day Woody Allen with a canny eye for reflective and layered surfaces, Cedar creates two utterly credible worlds: the one in which Norman operates, and the bricks-and-mortar reality in which everyone else is trying to make their own way.

Like Kevin Costner, Gere is making a gratifyingly graceful transition from '80s-era heartthrob to venerable character actor. Here, he delivers a crazy-mirror image of his sleek investment banker in 2012's "Arbitrage," lending Norman the avid, hungry expression of a lifelong sharpie, but also oodles of soul and vulnerability.

Ashkenazi is as sympathetic as a politician whose transactional notions of friendship don't necessarily make him a monster. An astoundingly good supporting cast includes Steve Buscemi as Norman's rabbi, Josh Charles as an elusive millionaire and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a young woman Norman meets on a train coming back from a pro-Israel lobbying conference.

One of the film's better, more visionary moments occurs at that gathering, which winds up catapulting Norman into circumstances he might have only dreamed of, but that quickly spiral into a kind of nightmare. Peppering "Norman" with obliquely mordant observations about Middle East politics, Cedar effortlessly propels the narrative into a sweetly pensive character study of a familiar archetype.

Is Norman a macher, a schnorrer or a mensch? Thanks to the filmmaker's sensitive touch and Gere's sympathetic performance, he gets to be all three. And that calls for mazel tovs all around.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.