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Laramie Movie Scope: The Dinner

Family faces a moral test, and fails

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 10, 2018 – A family with a history of mental illness has to deal with a moral crisis during a very expensive dinner at a posh restaurant in this talky drama. Based on the Dutch novel by Herman Koch, this film deals with murder, insanity, a political career, racism and a very dysfunctional family.

The film begins with people talking about their own version of events. The truth is gradually revealed one layer at a time over the course of the film. The main character, Paul Lohman (played by Steve Coogan of “Philomena”) has some mental problems that seem minor at first, but later on he is revealed to be very sick, and dangerous.

Because of his inability to deal with reality, Paul has been kept out of the loop regarding a crime committed by his son Michael (played by Charlie Plummer of “All the Money in the World”). It turns out that Michael is involved in the murder of a homeless woman. Also involved in the crime are the sons of Paul's brother, Stan (Richard Gere of “Arbitrage”). Stan's sons Rick (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick of “Pawn Sacrifice”) and Beau (Miles J. Harvey of “The Babysitter”) were with Michael at the time of the attack.

The three boys were trying to get cash for a taxi to get home at an ATM and a homeless woman was in their way. Over a short period of time their attempts to get the woman out of their way escalates into a fire and the death of the woman. In the video recorded by the youths, it appears that Beau (who is black, while the other two boys are white) left the scene prior to the fire, and that Michael is the main culprit. It is a horrendous crime of a person who posed no threat to the boys, though they claim otherwise.

Paul, his wife Claire (Laura Linney of “Nocturnal Animals”) along with Stan and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall of “Iron Man 3”) and Stan's assistant, Nina (Adepero Oduye of “Geostorm”) all gather at the restaurant for the dinner for a discussion about the crime committed by Lohman children. Stan, who is a powerful politician, has decided to resign and arrange for Rick and Beau to turn themselves in to police.

Paul, Claire and Katelyn don't like this at all. Claire and Katelyn both try with all their might to make Stan change his mind. They want to cover up their children's crime and hope that it is forgotten in time. Nina, who is not in on the discussion, is the only one who agrees with Stan. Paul also avoids a lot of the discussion, but makes it clear later on that he is not on Stan's side.

As flashbacks reveal more about the relationship between Paul and Stan, two different viewpoints are revealed. Paul blames Stan for his troubles and Stan thinks he had to bear an unfair burden growing up because of a dysfunctional household.

In the dinner discussions, it also becomes clear that Katelyn not only doesn't want her sons to pay for their crime, but she is very concerned about her husband's political career. She seems very worried about a loss of money and status if Stan resigns and the boys are brought to trial.

This ugly situation gets a lot uglier as the story goes along. Aside from Nina and maybe Beau, there are no heroes in this story, just characters representing different levels of villainy and selfishness. It is a sad, talky, slow-paced story that seems to drag on longer than its two hour running time. On top of that there is an ambiguous ending, which makes it seem even less worthwhile to sit through. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]