"A Profound Comic Masterpiece"
What You Need To Know:
NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER is an entertaining, profound comic masterpiece. It mixes an intelligent script with quirky humor and upbeat jazz melodies. This gives it a lighthearted feel. Richard Gere delivers one of his finest performances. NORMAN has a strong moral worldview with a light redemptive premise where sacrifice for the greater good solves the plot problem. However, strong foul language in several scenes warrants strong caution for NORMAN.
(BB, C, LL, V, AA, MM) Strong moral worldview with light redemptive premise where sacrifice for the greater good solves the plot problem, set in a Jewish context, about a Jewish protagonist, who’s generous, friendly and loyal, but who invents vague schemes and tries to network with rich or powerful people (including potential up-and-comers) to make himself more important, with some positive references to God, prayer and a Jewish synagogue and its rabbi; 10 obscenities (seven or eight “f” words), two strong profanities and one light exclamatory profanity; light violence when man falls down among some garbage bags, and his rabbi kicks a couple bags in his direction after learning that the man’s promises to the rabbi and the congregation were phony and built on wishful thinking rather than anything substantial, plus an implied suicide; no sexual content, just a scene with a husband and wife in bed talking seriously to one another; no nudity; some alcohol use and a depressed man drinks bottle of champagne by himself and passes out on a bed while apologizing to a new friend on the phone; no smoking or illegal drug use; and, protagonist makes extravagant or false claims but also tries to help people, rich and powerful people are condescending to people on lower social rungs but then become their best friend when they become more important (but that newfound respect can change in an instant if they perceive the person is weak, has failed or is getting into trouble), and protagonist is a namedropper.
NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER stars Richard Gere in an ironic comedy about a Jewish man in New York City whose vague schemes endanger his friend, the Israeli Prime Minister’s, political career and his synagogue’s plans to buy its temple building to stay in business. NORMAN is a profound comic masterpiece with a superb performance by Richard Gere and a premise where sacrifice for the greater good solves the plot problem, but there’s some strong foul language, especially when people find out the protagonist has failed them.
Norman is a lonely Jewish man living in New York. His life revolves around pretending to be a consultant, networking with businessmen and politicians, and doing people favors in hopes he can get some work or make a business deal. Norman tries to be everyone’s friend, but his constant networking leads nowhere.
After talking to his nephew about an idea to make money with Israeli treasury bonds, Norman attends a speech by a charismatic Israeli politician, Micha Eshel, alone in the city at a low point in his career. Norman sees a perfect opportunity to lift Eshel’s spirits and network with him. Norman secretly follows Eshel and convinces him to go into an expensive New York store when Norman spies him looking at a fancy suit and shoes in the window. Eshel tries on the suit and shoes, but puts them back when he sees the price tag. On a whim, Norman buys the $1,200 dollar shoes for Eshel and gives him his business card, encouraging Eshel to keep plugging away at his political career in Israel. He invites Eshel to attend a dinner with him at a rich and powerful man’s house. Eshel agrees, but his advisor later tells him to forget about Norman, and Norman is kicked out of the rich man’s house when Eshel doesn’t show.
There years later, Eshel is now Prime Minister of Israel. At a big political event, Norman and his nephew are standing stand in line to greet Eshel. Norman fearfully hopes Eshel will give him the recognition he craves. When Eshel finally sees Norman, he gives him a big hug and announces to everyone that Norman is a great advisor and friend. Norman gushes with joy and finally feels a sense of worth. After years of failed connections with New York Jewish leaders, Norman exclaims, “I bet on the right horse.” He’s finally granted the respect in business and politics he’s craved his entire life.
Norman’s rabbi is impressed by Norman’s new rise in importance and his apparent new contacts. So, when the synagogue is forced to either buy its temple building for $16 million or go out of business, the rabbi asks Norman to help. With nothing but wishful thinking, Norman sees a way to use his connections with the Prime Minister, with a rich businessman craving access to the Prime Minister, and with his nephew, so he promises the rabbi and the synagogue elders he can raise $7 million in seed money for the synagogue.
However, word gets out in the press that someone has been bribing the Israeli Prime Minister, and Norman slowly comes to the realization the press is talking about the shoes he bought for the Prime Minister three years ago. A female investigator focuses on Norman’s friendship with the Prime Minister. If the shoe incident is exposed publicly, it will destroy a new Middle East peace treaty the Prime Minister is getting ready to sign, and Norman’s synagogue will not get the seed money it needs to stay in business.
Can Norman save the day, or is everything lost, including peace in the Middle East and the careers of Norman’s friends, the Israeli Prime Minister and Norman’s rabbi?
NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER is an entertaining movie, a profound comic masterpiece. It mixes an intelligent script with quirky humor and upbeat jazz melodies to give it a lighthearted feel. The movie is clearly a tragedy, but it’s clearly a comical one filled with irony. As such, it makes some profound points.
For example, the movie shows that people will try to avoid you if you’re not important, especially if you become a nuisance. Then, however, if you do happen to become important, they will cozy up to you and may want big favors from you. However, be careful about promising to do such favors, because, if you fail to come through for them, these fair-weather friends may just kick you to the curb and leave you slowly twisting in the wind. Despite this sad state of affairs about the human condition, the movie’s ending clearly points out that making sacrifices for the greater good can be its own reward, even when it really hurts. According to the movie’s production notes, a prayer sung by the Jewish Cantor at the end says, “All those who faithfully occupy themselves with the needs of the community, may God grant them their reward, remove from them all sickness, preserve them in good health, and forgive all their sins.” This revelation makes the ending even more powerful.
Richard Gere delivers one of his best performances in NORMAN. He’s totally believable as Norman, even though he’s playing against type. Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi as the Israeli Prime Minister is both funny and touching. He emotionally stands by his friend, Norman, even though at the end, he must separate himself from him. In a sad but poignant scene full of irony and honest regret, he sincerely apologizes to Norman on the phone, and a chagrined but wiser Norman forgives him.
Although Norman is trying to make himself more important than he truly is by doing favors for powerful people, including making promises he might not be able to keep, he also does this for kind, generous reasons. He truly wants to make others happy by serving their needs and desires. At the end, he makes the ultimate sacrifice for his friend and for his synagogue, but clearly considers it a worthwhile thing to do because it will make the world a better place. Of course, this kind of sacrifice is also a very Christian thing to do, which is amazing considering that NORMAN the movie is a story set in a Jewish environment and created by a Jewish filmmaker.
NORMAN contains no lewd content. However, there is some strong but brief foul language, especially when people find out Norman can’t deliver on the promises he made to them. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong caution.