• by Wes Singleton

The Dinner, C

Rated R, 120 minutes

This "Dinner" lacks bite and focus. Sometimes you just want to have a nice meal in peace. You won't get that with the sluggish but well-acted new psychological family drama "The Dinner," based on Herman Koch's best-selling novel of the same name.

When Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), a popular congressman running for governor, invites his troubled younger brother Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) to join him and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for dinner at one of the town's most fashionable restaurants, the stage is set for a tense night. While Stan and Paul have been estranged since childhood, their 16-year- old sons are friends, and the two of them have committed a horrible crime that has shocked the country and heir parents must now decide what action to take.

Directed and written by Oren Moverman ("The Messenger"), the slow pace and the uneven narrative make "The Dinner" feel like an eternity, especially the last act, which goes off a rails a little and is completely changed from Koch's subtle novel. It helps that all the leads do a terrific job, especially Coogan ("The Trip to Italy"), cast against type here from his usual comedic roles, as the mentally unstable brother willing to go to great lengths to help his equally psychotic son, who is charged with his cousins of committing an awful crime that deserves consequences.

Each section, much like the novel, unfolds over the courses of a dinner at a fancy restaurant, with much of the plot unfolding in flashback, something that Moverman doesn't incorporate smoothly. "The Dinner's" slower, talkier middle act could've been trimmed, and often the script seems to skim the surface of what the novel did much better in depth.

Gere, Linney and Hall are also good, though respected character actress Chloe Sevigny is wasted in such a small part, and one created especially for the film; Charlie Plummer is also solid as the equally troubled son who acts as a ringleader and who doesn't exactly have the best role model in either parent. The baffling ending, with all the leads walking around in the snow, resolves nothing to the plot and will likely leave audiences scratching their heads.

The strong performances from the leads carry this unusual movie, though honestly it's a disappointment considering everyone involved, especially if you're a fan of the book.

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