Movie Review: Richard Gere Plays A Scheming New York Fixer In 'Norman'

Apr 14, 2017
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Connections are important, especially in business. Think of the adage it's not so much what you know, it's who you know. A new movie centers on a guy who takes that notion to extremes. It's called "Norman: The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer." Critic Bob Mondello has a review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: People run the other way when they see Norman Oppenheimer coming - if they see him coming - say, the assistant to a rich guy's assistant who's jogging in Central Park.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

RICHARD GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Good morning, Bill. Norman Oppenheimer

DAN STEVENS: (As Bill Kavish) You stalking me now?

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) No. I just need a couple minutes of your time. I know you're busy.

STEVENS: (As Bill Kavish) This is my private time. Please, respect that. Call the office.

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) I'm sorry, sir. Let me explain. Give me one minute.

STEVENS: (As Bill Kavish) No.

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) A very high official, I can't mention his name right now.

MONDELLO: Norman, played by Richard Gere in overdrive, always has an angle, a deal, something he's sure will make your life better.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think it was worth Joe's time. Worse comes to worst, he kicks me out the door.

STEVENS: (As Bill Kavish) No. Worse comes to worst, he kicks me out the door. It is my job to keep people like you away. Don't you get that?

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Yes.

STEVENS: (As Bill Kavish) So please, respect my position.

MONDELLO: And he jogs away. And Norman calls after him, salvaging what he can.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) So I'll tell my partners that we had a good conversation. And we'll see what happens, OK? Thank you, Bill.

MONDELLO: Norman does not look unhappy with this outcome as he heads to his next meeting - actually, a public forum, a very low-level Israeli official talking energy issues. Norman follows the guy after the forum, strikes up a conversation as he enters an expensive clothing shop.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) We're going to dinner at his house tonight. You can join me.

LIOR ASHKENAZI: (As Eshel) How do you know Martha Taub (ph)?

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Oh, my wife used to babysit her. And then she ended up working for him years later, very close.

MONDELLO: Norman hangs around as the guy tries on a suit, talking and talking until...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

ASHKENAZI: (As Eshel) Do not wear a suit that costs more than ordinary man's car.

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Well, at least take the shoes.

ASHKENAZI: (As Eshel) No - enough. I don't want them.

MONDELLO: How do you ingratiate yourself with power? Make a gesture.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Let me buy you the shoes. It'd be my privilege to buy you these shoes.

MONDELLO: It's a great gesture until the clerk brings the receipt - thousand dollar shoes. But Norman sucks it up and gets Israeli deputy Micah Eshel's (ph) card to flash around when he's bragging about his famous pals, a connection he figures has been made - an expensive connection.

Of course, since he's a chronic exaggerator, no one is going to believe him, especially as Eshel starts rising politically. And a couple of years later when Israeli Prime Minister Eshel returns to New York, even Norman figures the jig is up. Having weaseled his way onto a reception line, he's terrified of being found out.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You OK?

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I've been reacting to something in the room. I don't know.

MONDELLO: Let's just avert our eyes from what happens next. Could Norman handle it if things went well for him? Well, the film's subtitle is "The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer." Still, director Joseph Cedar gives Norman's moments of triumph the sort of showcase that 1940s musicals gave great tap dancers, surrounding him with an impressive chorus - Steve Buscemi as a rabbi who trusts Norman more than he should, Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen as up-and-comers who don't trust him at all, Charlotte Gainsbourg as a lawyer who really listens to what he has to say, not always a good thing. All of them circling Richard Gere's scheming, well-meaning, increasingly-in-over-his-head fixer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) Oh, my name? My name is Norman Oppenheimer. Yeah. No, Mr. Eshel's a very, very close friend of mine.

MONDELLO: Gere is mesmerizing, making Norman every bit as crazily engaging as he is annoying.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER")

GERE: (As Norman Oppenheimer) I got a meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) How'd you manage that?

MONDELLO: In real life, you might well cross the street if you saw Norman coming. But from a distance on a movie screen, he is fascinating company. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.