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Film review: ‘The Dinner’ gorges on self-importance

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From left, Coogan, Linney, Gere and Hall, raise a glass in The Dinner.

Two stars

The Dinner Steve Coogan, Richard Gere, Laura Linney. Directed by Oren Moverman. Rated R. Opens Friday in select theaters.

Oren Moverman’s The Dinner is the third film adaptation of Herman Koch’s 2009 novel, following versions in Italian (2014) and Koch’s native Dutch (2013), so there’s obviously something about the story that resonates with filmmakers, even if the movies fail to capture it. Shifting the story to the U.S. and connecting it to current issues of race and class, writer-director Moverman (The Messenger, Rampart) delivers an overwrought, often laughably self-serious drama built around a terrible lead performance from Steve Coogan.

Coogan, who’s known for comedy, sports an unconvincing American accent as Paul, a troubled former history teacher summoned to a fancy dinner by his politician brother Stan (Richard Gere). Along with their wives (played by Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall, respectively), Paul and Stan dance around the subject of a terrible incident involving their teenage sons, while eating a ridiculously high-end meal.

There’s a lot of vague dialogue and plenty of non-illuminating flashbacks, including a long, inexplicable digression about the Battle of Gettysburg. Moverman’s mannered directing style includes garish, oversaturated colors, plus odd, distracting sound choices. Gere, Linney and Hall are solid, but Coogan needs to carry the movie, and he’s consistently awkward and irritating. Whatever intensity and intelligence may be in Koch’s novel don’t make it to the screen.

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