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Film review: Richard Gere plays the inscrutable ‘Norman’

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Gere (left) and Ashkenazi go window shopping.
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Two and a half stars

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen. Directed by Joseph Cedar. Rated R. Opens Friday at Suncoast and Town Square.

There’s something oddly appealing about the whimsically titled Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, in the same way that there’s something oddly appealing about its title character, played by Richard Gere. The other characters in the movie are equally charmed and irritated by Norman, a sort of political and corporate gadfly whose actual profession and skills are never quite clear. A lot about Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar’s movie is never quite clear, and the filmmaker’s oddball style only adds to the disjointed feel of the story, which jumps ahead in time at various points, tracing Norman’s relationship with an Israeli politician (Lior Ashkenazi) who eventually becomes prime minister.

The semi-comedic movie isn’t exactly a satire, and its determined vagueness about Norman’s actual business and political dealings makes it tough to connect it to any real-world events. But it’s not really a character study, either, because Norman himself remains deliberately obtuse, both to the audience and to the other characters. Cedar’s highly stylized direction, with striking use of split screens and slow motion, gives the movie a surreal, dreamlike feel, but it also makes the story and the characters harder to grasp. There’s something oddly appealing about Norman, but even by the end of the movie, no one can quite figure out what that is.

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