In The Dinner, Richard Gere and Steve Coogan play embittered brothers who meet one night at a fancy restaurant along with their wives (played respectively by Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney) to eat, drink, and dredge up the past. The movie, directed by Oren Moverman (an Oscar nominee for The Messenger) and based on the best-selling 2009 novel by Herman Koch, is screening Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival. It opens in limited release on May 5.
When he was casting the film, Moverman signed up Gere first. The two had collaborated on Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, which Moverman co-wrote, and 2015’s extraordinary Time Out of Mind, which stars Gere in a heartbreaking performance as a destitute man living on the streets of New York City. In The Dinner, he plays a suave congressman running for governor.
“After directing Richard as a homeless man I thought I should put him in a suit again and make him feel a bit better,” Moverman says. “He was game for it but the question became ‘Who’s Richard Gere’s brother?'”
Moverman initiated a Skype call with Coogan. All of the sudden, the director, says, “I could totally see it.” And a part of the reason was this:
The Trip is Michael Winterbottom’s 2010 comedy starring Coogan and Rob Brydon as lightly fictionalized versions of themselves as they travel to an array of restaurants in Northern England. The film was followed in 2014 by The Trip to Italy and this year by The Trip to Spain, which received its world premiere at Tribeca this past weekend.
Overman says, “In The Trip, Coogan spends about two minutes explaining how to do an imitation of Richard Gere. Steve is a brilliant writer and obviously an incredible mimic. I suddenly realized that it couldn’t be any better. It couldn’t be anyone else.”
The Dinner, meanwhile, is a showcase for all four of its main actors, but none more so than Coogan, who plays a man who’s either losing or has lost grasp of his own sanity and delivers a performance of barely bottled intensity that is scary and exhilarating to watch.
Moverman explains that the sharp concentration in Coogan’s performance didn’t require any directorial trickery.
“I think that might be his natural energy,” he says. “And I say this as someone who’s also been blamed for being overly intense. Steve has that energy of a very thoughtful guy, very smart guy, who also happens to be aware of the world and angry about it. He’s angry about the injustices of the world as if they’re personal. He’s definitely not someone who backs out of an intellectual fight.”