Richard Gere’s Norman conquest is perfectly cast

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Norman (15)

Rating:

Verdict: A compelling gem 

An Israeli writer-director (Joseph Cedar) and Israeli funding thoroughly insulate this film against any charges of anti-Semitism, but nonetheless I can see why it might feed the arrant ignorance and prejudice of those who believe Jews are motivated principally by acquiring money and influence.

That caveat aside, Norman, with its unwieldy sub-title The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer, is a quietly compelling gem of a movie. 

And while I have never been a Richard Gere fan, he is perfectly cast in the title role. If he’s ever given a finer performance than this, I haven’t seen it.

And while I have never been a Richard Gere fan, he is perfectly cast in the title role. If he’s ever given a finer performance than this, I haven’t seen it

And while I have never been a Richard Gere fan, he is perfectly cast in the title role. If he’s ever given a finer performance than this, I haven’t seen it

And while I have never been a Richard Gere fan, he is perfectly cast in the title role. If he’s ever given a finer performance than this, I haven’t seen it

Norman Oppenheimer’s existence is all about networking in the hunt for business opportunities. It is his entire raison d’être, with Cedar carefully revealing nothing of Norman’s back-story or hinterland, except that he has a high-flying lawyer nephew (Michael Sheen). 

We never see Norman at home or in an office. All he does, usually while striding the sidewalks of Manhattan, is develop and nurture contacts, with the guile and pushiness of a street pedlar, but also an air of desperation.

The film’s subtitle derives from his one notable triumph, which ultimately causes his downfall. He worms his way into the confidence of an Israeli politician, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), in New York on a trade mission, by buying him a pair of $1,200 shoes.

He worms his way into the confidence of an Israeli politician, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi, right)

He worms his way into the confidence of an Israeli politician, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi, right)

He worms his way into the confidence of an Israeli politician, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi, right)

Three years later, Eshel becomes Israel’s prime minister, remembers Norman’s generosity and invites him into his inner circle. 

Suddenly, Norman has the status he has always craved. At last he’s a somebody, a man with a world leader on speed-dial. But when Eshel is investigated for corruption, Norman yearns to be a nobody again.

A tip-top supporting cast also includes Steve Buscemi as Norman’s rabbi, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as an Israeli investigator. But this is Gere’s movie, as well as Cedar’s. It is an impeccable piece of work.

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