Rated R

117 Minutes

Released April 14

 

Norman is an unusual and vivid study of an intricate and unique human being. It’s also a tale of how an action on a personal plane can affect the world stage. The story is a game of mental chess on an interpersonal level involving game pieces of massive scope. A cascade of action is set in place by one move amidst a group of intensely interesting players.

Richard Gere as “Norman” is the central magnet of the story, a character 180 degrees from those he usually portrays. He succeeds in bringing strength to an unassuming man who is genuinely altruistic at heart. Norman is quite addicted to doing deals, though not out of self-interest. He sincerely cares about the people he brings together. There is much about this man that is never spoken and becomes known through the art of visual conveyance in this film. The character never loses his mystery even though he seems to embody the soul of someone most of us have met.

Writer/director Joseph Cedar, who has both US and Israeli background, studied philosophy at Hebrew University. He is able to stand back and understand the big picture of current cultural and political forces. The casting by Jodi Angstreich, Laura Rosenthal and Hila Yuval is fantastic. There are many relatively unknown actors in key small roles that make the tale realistic. The minor characters are all fascinating and well written. No one is there just to move along the story. Hank Azaria as a classic mirror character is sad and hilarious at once. Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi lights up the screen as a seemingly powerful yet vulnerable politician. Michael Sheen is wonderful as a seemingly wise confidant. Charlotte Gainsbourg does some of her best work yet as a low-key and potent accidental catalyst for a huge turn of events. Dan Stevens and Steve Buscemi are colorful characters.

In this movie the camera becomes a character in itself. Filmmaking buffs will find the play between the editing by Brian A. Kates and the camera work by Yaron Scharf has an organic fluidity and a refreshing rhythm of movement. The transitions from scene to scene are flawless. The close-ups are natural rather than jarring and are made stimulating by the excellent cast.

The music by jazz trumpet player/ composer Jun Miyake is creative and underscores the muted intensity of the emotional tone of the film perfectly.

I have been deliberately vague about the setting and characters of Norman so that you can experience the set up of the story from an innocent point of view. I think that this film deserves that. The overall style of intrigue and mystery in Norman is the backlight for a warmhearted story of a unique and caring individual. There is a haunting yearning for peace underlying all the action that transpires. This film is a great parable for our times, at once universal and timely. I would not be surprised to find that Norman becomes a contender in the 2017 awards season.

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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