In drama the word "tragedy" has a meaning that is more specific than just "bad things happening." It refers to the way a powerful figure is brought to a complete downfall by an inherent aspect of the same power within him that raised him up in the first place. Arthur Miller set about in Death of a Salesmen to show that plain folks can, and perhaps often do, have lives just as tragic as those of ancient kings. Joseph Cedar has the same idea in Norman, and my wife called it a "heavy" movie, but I wouldn't entirely agree. The audience is prevented from becoming too emotionally invested in the tragedy because, first and foremost, casting Richard Gere as a hapless Jewish luftmensch (a person whose source of livelihood is deals, not products) creates a sort of insulation between the actor and the part regardless of how well he plays it. So does casting Steve Buscemi as a rabbi. The music, which is excellent, often implies a comical perspective. And there are satirical touches of mild exaggeration, with some of the scenes playing out like comedy skits. In fact, the production seems for the most part to take place on the scale of a TV movie. There aren't many incidental characters or details widening the scope and enhancing the realism of it, and what seems less than important can turn out to be perfectly, maybe even predictably important later (which, in a tragedy, may not be an imperfection).
The film is a joint US-Israeli production, but for nice recent Israeli cityscapes and landscapes you'll have to turn to other good recent Israeli movies (and there are many). In this one, unless I missed something, all we see of Israel is the inside of the Parliament (the real hall, used with permission). Maybe one reason Israeli audiences would find the film "heavy" is that they watch with fear that the plot will reflect badly on our politics. But it doesn't indulge in any particularly mean-spirited portrayals, and Richard Gere himself probably did more damage by coming to Israel for the premiere and patronizing the government with a political dose of California dreaming.
Drama / Thriller
Drama / Thriller
Norman Oppenheimer is the President of New York based Oppenheimer Strategies. His word-of-mouth business is consulting work largely in American-Israeli business and politics, that focus due to being Jewish. Most of that work is as a fixer: doing work that others don't want to do and with which they don't want to be officially associated. In reality, Norman is a shyster, and not a very good one at that. His office is comprised of his cell phone and whatever is stuffed in his satchel which is usually slung over his shoulder as he wanders the streets. What he promises is making connections, setting up a meeting between his guy and the other guy. Generally, "his guy" is non-existent, he dropping names of people he usually doesn't know to make connections. A usual tactic he uses is to say that his deceased wife was personally connected to so-and-so, such as being a babysitter, those stories always untrue. All he needs is for one of the people that he approaches to believe a story to build that network. Not so much a story, but an act of kindness with that ulterior motive does eventually pan out as the connection of which he could have only dreamed. He is able to build off that connection to become the toast of the town, a status upon which he tries to parlay into being an even bigger fish in the pond. But the greater his exposure, the greater the potential scrutiny about him as a person, which could bring his fragile network come crumbling down around him.
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July 31, 2017 at 03:46 AM