This could be Gere’s greatest…
Norman is the kind of smart, mature, sophisticated movie that poses too much of a risk for studios to release these days. It’s not based on a superhero or some graphic novel. Instead it just is a normal movie about an ordinary person. Wait, then why watch it then? That’s something I was wondering upon deciding to view this movie. I had not heard of it at all until the I saw it on the listings. The description for it sounded mundane. There was serious contemplation of taking a nap after the first five minutes. There’s a reason, they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Pushing through the beginning, I found myself fascinated by the character that is Norman.
Richard Gere plays Norman Oppenheimer. Norman is basically a New York street hustler. Officially considered a “fixer”, Norman is the type of person that tries to run into people of influence so that he can say he knows them. He builds up a network of flimsy social connections to display an image of being someone important and capable of getting things done. Sort of like a Ponzi scheme but with favors instead of actual monetary investments. The harsh reality is that Norman is not too great at what he does. Until one day, he meets a lowly Israeli politician, Micah Eshel. Through an act of kindness on Norman’s part, these two men end up befriending each other. A few years later, Micah Eshel is suddenly Prime Minister of Israel. Norman’s friendship with Eshel ends up reaping moderate benefits but this is threatened when suddenly Norman is cut off from communicating with him due to a massive political scandal that begins to unfold.
I’ve always thought Richard Gere was a solid actor, but his performance here is incredible. I totally forgot that this was Gere at times, as he comes across as the likeable Jewish loser so compellingly. Gere may be nominated for Best Actor for this role. There’s also a talented supporting cast here. Perhaps the standout of the bunch is Lior Ashkenazi who brilliantly plays the ambiguous Micah Eshel. This is a beautifully shot film as well. The scenes where two people are speaking to each other on phones in separate geographic areas but made to look like they were in the same room was a nice artistic touch. Everything about this movie is pleasant and humorous.
Norman brings up thought provoking questions about the nature of friendships and the frailty of political aspirations. What exactly do men expect to gain out of befriending other men? Are friendships where you are expected to do favors for the other friend or is the opposite true? Does every friendship need to have a utilitarian benefit? Is Micah using Norman or is Norman using Micah? Were they ever truly friends? Was it unethical for Micah to accept Norman’s gesture of kindness in the first place?
This movie isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for an action-packed superhero summer blockbuster, Norman is the opposite. However, it is an intelligent look at the nature of human relationships. The Israeli propaganda might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was willing to look past that because I was intrigued by what Norman would do next. If you’re looking for a mature comedy, Norman is a very nice movie to check out.