Movie, Reviews

“Norman” From Shyster to Saint

A cool film that has a lot of heart, Norman tells a tale of a lost soul that tries to turn his life around. Played out Woody Allen style the film has a lot of dialogue and quick responses that get you caught up in the life of a man who has found his niche in the world, yet can’t come to grips with failure. If you like movies that build a character that gets caught up in his own mistakes, then this one is sure to please.

We find Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) in the latter of his life still working to sell his ability to connect big businessmen with others who have a proposition for greater wealth. He’s a known fixer, an operator who arranges deals that in most cases are a gamble.

Norman (Richard Gere) meets up with Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) in the film NORMAN

Not doing too well, Norman starts groveling for business even asking his nephew Philip Cohen (Michael Sheen) to stick his neck out to get him a meeting with a big league businessman Jo Wilf (Harris Yulin). He wants to sell him an opportunity to purchase $300 million dollars in debt from a company and only paying 80 cents on a dollar. Phillip describes his uncle as “a drowning man trying to wave at an ocean liner”.

One day after an uneasy meeting with Bill Kavish (Dan Stevens), the assistant to Jo Wilf, Norman attends an Oil and Gas Exploration Conference where he hears guest speaker Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) Israeli Deputy Minister of Trade and Labor. Intentionally and by chance he bumps into Mica and through a stroke of fate, they become friends.

Norman (Richard Gere) and his nephew Philip Cohen (Michael Sheen) in NORMAN

When they meet again years later, the plot starts to thicken. Director and writer Joseph Cedar keeps his film compelling and spontaneous as he shows Norman getting into one situation after another. He’s a manipulator supreme, but when he’s holding too many unplayable cards, Norman finds himself pressed to deliver himself up as a pawn in a chess game about life.

I like what Cedar has done with his creative script and his choices of actors to play the roles. Lior Ashkenazi fits the character of Micha Eshel, the rising politician in the Israel cabinet. When he gets a chance at the top post, his first duty is bringing peace to his country. Meeting Norman he finds that friendship, even at the lowest level, has importance, especially if it’s genuine. He may be the catalyst to Norman’s final act, but his reverence to him never wavers.

The performance by Richard Gere as the incisive Norman who finds he’s at the end of his rope reminds me of another salesman, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. His character has been burned out, yet he presses on until there’s no other way to go. While Gere’s performance is good, it’s not his best, getting more maudlin than heroic.

Norman has been rated R by the MPAA for language. Although the language may be harsh it’s not anything most teens haven’t heard.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A compelling storyline and very good direction.

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Richard Gere, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Josh Charles, Michael Sheen, Lior Ashkenazi, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi and Hank Azaria 
Written and Directed by: Joseph Cedar
Genre: Drama w/comedy
MPAA Rating:  R for some language 
Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released in: English w/subtitles for Hebrew

The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.

Previous ArticleNext Article
Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 11 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com

1 Comment