Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

May 18, 2017 by Roz Tarszisz
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Shlemazel* is the best Yiddish word to describe Norman.

Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) lives a lonely life.  An optimistic, but mostly unsuccessful, operator, he wheels and deals on his mobile phone.  He is connected to a synagogue and knows its leader, Rabbi Blumenthal (Steve Buscemi) but we never learn much else about Norman.

He sets his sights on Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a charming Israel politician alone in New York. Eshel wonders aloud how long he can stay in politics as a deputy’s deputy and in a moment of weakness, but deeply touched, accepts Norman’s gift of a very expensive pair of shoes.

When Eshel becomes Prime Minister three years later, he remembers and warmly acknowledges Norman in a room full of New York’s movers and shakers. The look on Norman’s face is like he’s won the lottery, and in a way he has.

At long last Norman has the “in” to the big players..  He spins a complicated series of quid pro quo transactions linking the Israeli PM to his nephew Philip Cohen (Michael Sheen), Rabbi Blumenthal and his congregation to a top NY mogul Jo Wilf (Harris Yulin), via Norman’s faint connection to Wilf’s assistant, Bill Kavis (Dan Stevens).

While he has some street smarts and plenty of chutzpah, Norman is not bright or intuitive enough to pull off the coup of his life. Writer and director Joseph Cedar, in his first English language film, has brought a complex and sad figure to life and made us care something for him.

When Norman meets a woman on a bus Alex Green (Charlotte Gainsbourg) he is puzzled when she asks him why, within a few minutes of their meeting, he is intent on finding a deal for her.  It’s just his way.

As Norman’s complicated plans start to go exceedingly awry, it creates the potential for an international catastrophe.

Gere is a revelation as the slightly seedy and aging fixer.  Gone are the mannerisms of an attractive silver fox and within a few minutes I forgot who was playing Norman, so completely did he inhabit him.  Ashkenazi is good as a politician who has to learn to play hardball and all the supporting roles are convincing.

Norman wants to be a mensch as much as he longs for glory.

3.5/5  Drama Rated M  Released May 25

Stars Richard Gere, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Steve Buscemi, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen

Written and directed by Joseph Cedar

Music by Jun Miyake

*Schlimazel  – a chronically unlucky person, a born loser

 

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