"A Proctologist’s View of the Middle-Class American Family"
What You Need To Know:
THE DINNER is well acted. However, the movie’s many flashbacks and frequent interruptions by the Congressman’s assistant become rather annoying. They not only interrupt the narrative flow; they also cause some confusion. THE DINNER also suffers from an abrupt ending that leaves viewers hanging. Finally, thematically speaking, THE DINNER seems to be just a humanist, leftist, politically correct attack on the white middle-class American family. There’s talk about doing the right thing, but selfishness and chaos win the day ultimately. THE DINNER also has abundant, extreme foul language.
(HHH, APAPAP, PCPCPC, B, RHRH, LLL, VVV, MMM) Very strong humanist, leftist worldview comes across as an Anti-American, politically correct negative portrayal of the white middle-class American family and their children, with some discussion about doing the right thing, but people are talked out of following through on that for selfish reasons, plus some comments about American history are revisionist left-wing falsehoods; about 87 obscenities (about 72 “f” words), 19 strong profanities (only four are GDs) and eight light profanities, plus at least 29 “f” words in lewd song over the end credits; no graphic but very disturbing violence when two white boys throw trash cans onto homeless black woman trying to sleep in an enclosed ATM kiosk, and one boy throws matches onto her and kicks her before setting fire to the whole inside of the ATM and killing her, plus white man tries to choke black teenager (who is the man’s adoptive nephew) for blackmailing the white man’s son who instigated the murder of the black homeless woman, but the teenager gets away and disappears, and man has a nervous breakdown and cuts his hand in his hotel room while he and his brother visit the Gettysburg battlefield; no sex; upper male nudity in one scene; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, blackmail, selfishness, cruelty, reverse snobbery, racism, cynicism, one main character is misanthropic, man has a mean attitude of envy toward his famous brother, who eventually seems to be a better person though also flawed, and man becomes despondent when wife is diagnosed with cancer and has to stay at the hospital, but eventually she survives the cancer scare.
THE DINNER is an arthouse drama about two related middle-class American families trying to handle an awful, violent hate crime committed by two of their three teenage boys. Though well-acted, THE DINNER is a depressing movie with a scathing, radical leftist take on the middle-class American family, including lots of extreme foul language, whose only saving grace is that it briefly exposes the insincerity and hypocrisy of white “limousine liberals.”
Using a lot of flashbacks, the movie opens with Paul and Claire Lohman getting ready to go to an expensive seven-course dinner at a super-fancy restaurant with Paul’s brother, Stan, a Congressman running for governor, and Stan’s second wife, Katelyn. Extremely resentful of his brother, Paul is a misanthropic history teacher on disability leave because of a mental breakdown. Stan is preoccupied with a bill he is trying to move through Congress. Claire is a cancer survivor. She and Paul have one teenage son, Michael. Finally, Katelyn takes care of Stan’s teenage boys from his first wife, who left the family. One of the boys is an adopted black boy.
During the dinner, Stan is constantly interrupted by his black female assistant at the restaurant about Stan’s legislation, which is being voted upon the next morning. Eventually, the reason for the dinner becomes clear. Paul and Claire’s son, Michael, and Stan’s son, Rick, beat up and roasted alive a homeless black woman sleeping in a bank’s ATM kiosk. The adopted black son, Beau, posted Michael’s smartphone video of the woman’s death, but masked Michael and Rick’s identities. Now, Stan has gathered the families at the restaurant to tell them he’s decided to quit the governor’s race and reveal Michael and Rick’s identities because it’s the “right thing to do.” Stan thinks the boys desperately need to get some psychological counseling.
Interspersed with the dinner events are flashbacks to the boys’ crime and the progression of Paul’s mental breakdown over the last two or three years. It becomes clear that Paul, who in an interior monologue expresses hate for America and its European settlers who led the country’s political, social and economic development, may be just as psychologically disturbed as his son, Michael.
Eventually, the debate between Stan and the others about Stan’s decision ends in a lot of bitter recriminations and, ultimately, chaos.
THE DINNER is well acted. Steve Coogan’s performance as Paul is surprisingly different from anything else the British comedian has ever done. That said, the movie’s many flashbacks and frequent interruptions by Stan’s assistant become too annoying. They not only interrupt the narrative flow; they also cause a little more confusion than may have been intended (it’s hard to say for sure, but confusion, whether intended or not, usually isn’t conducive to good storytelling). Finally, an abrupt ending doesn’t resolve the conflict at all, leaving viewers hanging.
Ultimately, partly because it leaves viewers hanging, THE DINNER ends up being a scathing, radical leftist take on the white middle-class American family. There is talk about doing the right thing, especially by the Congressman, but the other main characters do their best to talk him out of that. Another example is the Congressman’s adoption of a black child. What would seem to be a positive thing is criticized by the Congressman’s brother, who several times says he doesn’t really trust the boy and thinks he’s up to no good. Early in the movie, the brother makes a lot of disparaging remarks about America and its history. At one point, he says that, if it were up to him, both sides of the Civil War would have wiped one another out. Finally, none of the adults comes across as particularly engaged parent, although there’s some discussion about how much time the Congressman’s second wife devotes to taking care of his two sons from his first wife. The movie never confirms this discussion, however, by showing how she actually relates to these children.
The fancy dinner the characters attend seems delicious, but THE DINNER leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.