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Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of A New York Fixer

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Apr 21, 2017

Writer-director Joseph Cedar aims his newest film at the narrow region between grim nonsense and effectual political satire, and lands right on target.

"Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer" follows an aging professional deal-maker, Normal Oppenheimer (Richard Gere), as he buzzes around New York City, identifying potential clients and then cornering them with a combination of charm, blather, and barely-plausible schemes. One such wild fantasia involves the taxes of an entire nation -- Israel -- and as Norman frantically seeks to connect a visiting functionary of the Israeli government with an influential investor, he almost inadvertently manages a connection of a different sort: That mysterious spark that people call friendship.

It happens in Act One -- subtitled "A Foot in the Door" -- and, as is apt for the title, it happens over a pair of finely crafted shoes, which Norman presents as a gift to the Israeli official, Misha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi). Jump forward by a span of three years (and "a thousand small favors") and Eshel has, despite all odds, been elected as Prime Minister of Israel. His grand plan is to "say yes" to all sides in the Middle East's political disputes, until he manages a compromise that will please no one and yet allow everybody to move forward into a peaceful and prosperous future.

The only obstacle? It turns out to be Norman himself, who, in his mixture of genuine willingness to help Eshel and his pride at having "bet on the right horse," stumbles into a political scandal while he's attempting a fresh set of maneuvers to hook up disparate parties so that they can provide one another with the things they want: Guaranteed admission to Harvard for Eschel's son, a huge donation to save a local temple, and the services of that temple's rabbi (Steve Buscemi) at the wedding of Norman's own nephew (Michael Sheen).

A beautiful woman lurks at the edges of this mess in the making, of course. Her name is Alex (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and though Norman is counting on her to help him smooth over an increasing number of jagged edges, Alex has an agenda of her own to pursue that might not be much good for Norman, Eshel, or the prospects of peace.

As Norman, Gere manages a tricky feat. The actor blends bits and dollops from various other cinematic figures -- such as Gere's own homeless New Yorker, George, from 2014's "Time Out of Mind," and maybe a few shavings of Chance, the protagonist of "Being There" given movie immortality by the late, great Peter Sellars -- and comes up with a figure that's simultaneously visionary and deluded, insignificant and full of potential, venal and noble. The movie revolves around Norman with writhing, kaleidoscopic moods, its satirical bite often softened with melancholy but just as often made more piercing by raw pity. Norman is a zero, a nebbish, a cipher, the kind of fast-talking guy who uses a table at Starbuck's or the aisle of an office supplies sorry at his office -- and yet, he could turn out to have courage and substance if only he could gain some traction in a world that refuses to believe in him.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. When an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, but a few years later, when Eshel becomes the Israel prime minister, Norman can't communicate with him anymore, and this threatens to destroy his reputation.


Runtime :: 118 mins
Release Date :: Apr 14, 2017
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States


Norman Oppenheimer :: Richard Gere
Eshel :: Lior Ashkenazi
Philip Cohen :: Michael Sheen
Rabbi Blumenthal :: Steve Buscemi
Alex :: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Bill Kavish :: Dan Stevens
Srul Katz :: Hank Azaria
Jo Wilf :: Harris Yulin
Taub :: Josh Charles
Duby :: Yehuda Almagor
Hanna :: Neta Riskin
Bruce Schwartz :: Scott Shepherd
Lior Keshet :: Jonathan Avigdori
Marty Schiff :: Andrew Polk
Luis Pascual :: Jorge Pupo
Barbara Klein :: Maryann Urbano


Director :: Joseph Cedar
Screenwriter :: Joseph Cedar
Producer :: Oren Moverman
Producer :: Gideon Tadmor
Producer :: Eyal Rimmon
Producer :: David Mandil
Producer :: Miranda Bailey
Producer :: Lawrence Inglee
Executive Producer :: Jim Kaufman
Executive Producer :: Amanda Marshall
Executive Producer :: Caroline Kaplan
Cinematographer :: Yaron Scharf
Film Editor :: Brian Kates
Original Music :: Jun Miyake
Production Design :: Kalina Ivanov
Production Design :: Arad Sawat
Art Director :: Barbra Matis
Costume Designer :: Michelle Matland

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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