NORMAN-THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER
(director/writer: Joseph Ceda; cinematographer: Yaron Scharf; editor: Brian A. Kates; music: ; cast: Richard Gere (Norman Oppenheimer), Lior Ashkenazi (Micha Eshel), Michael Sheen (Phillip Cohen), Steve Buscemi(Rabbi Blumenthal), Yehuda Almagor (Duby), Hank Azaria (Srul Katz), Neta Riskin (Hanna), Josh Charles (Arthur Taub), Dan Stevens (Bill Kavish), Dov Glickman (Ron Maor), Azi Schwartz (Cantor), Harris Yulin (Jo Wilf), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Alex Green); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Oren Moverman, Gideon Tadmor, Eyal Rimmon, David Mindil, Miranda Bailey, Lawrence Inglee; Sony Picture Classics; 2016-USA/Israel-in English)
“A doozy character study about a fixer.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A witty droll satire, that gets finally played for tragedy. It gives us an excellent Richard Gere turn, as the 67-year-old does a Woody Allen shtick. Joseph Cedar, the New York-born Israeli writer-director (“Footnote”/”Campfire”), in his first English film, offers a doozy character study about a fixer–connects people anyway he can to make them happy. The Yiddish word that comes closest to describing the fixer here is schnorrer–a sponger. The nebbish but likable NYC con man Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) roams the wintry city streets in the same cap and camel-coat while offering to connect people. On one such stroll he befriends a wheeler-dealer rising Israeli politician, Deputy Minister of Trade Mischa Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi, an Israeli leading stage, film and television actor), by impulsively buying him a pair of shoes, costing an outrageous $1,200. Three years later he becomes the Prime Minister, and when Norman is on a ceremonial line to greet him he is remembered by the great man with a big hug in front of all the politically powerful Jews.
The pushy and manipulative loner Norman survives with only business cards and a cell phone, now he overreaches by dropping the name of the prime minister as a close influential friend he can work with and thereby he gains influence in the city among the prominent Jews looking for favors. Suddenly the fixer is considered a big “mocha” and people such as his ambitious lawyer nephew (Michael Sheen), Katz (Hank Azaria) as a pesty “mensch” and rival street-person fixer, a needy local rabbi (Steve Buscemi) needing financial aid to save his synagogue, Taub (Josh Charles) as an elusive tycoon, a financial tycoon (Harris Yulin), the tycoon’s gatekeeper (Dan Stevens) and a snooping NYC corruption investigator lawyer working at the Israeli embassy for Israel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) want something from him. So far so good, but an awkward political scandal over a financial scheme is thrown into the mix and the comedy moves too far uptown to completely recover from this plodding move.
The much too neat ending doesn’t quite patch up this botch.
REVIEWED ON 3/11/2018 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/