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Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

Directed by Joseph Cedar. Starring Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Hank Azaria, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens, Yehuda Almagor, Isaach de Bankolé, Josh Charles, Harris Yulin. (2017, R, 118 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 12, 2017

All vestiges of the pretty-boy veneer that have often overshadowed the fine performances that Richard Gere has consistently delivered throughout his long career are finally shattered with his work in this finely honed character study, Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. The familiarity of the popular actor is subsumed in this role as a New York Jew who wants nothing more than to be connected to the movers and shakers of the world, to walk beside them as a valued player and associate, but not as a leader himself. Norman Oppenheimer wants to be the glue that connects important people, a macher to use the Yiddish term for which there is no single English equivalent. The film’s all-telling title uses the word “fixer,” although that doesn’t fully encapsulate the sense of Norman wanting to be a big shot who can make things happen, but from behind the scenes instead of in the spotlight. Reflected glory is good enough for Norman.

Norman is a man of the streets; in fact, we never see the inside of the character’s home. Instead, we see Norman constantly outside, on the move in Manhattan, covered in a camel hair coat and natty cap, with a telephone cord constantly dangling between his ear and coat pocket. Always at the ready is his ambiguous business card that simply reads, “Oppenheimer Strategies.” In many ways, he is a stereotype of a pushy Jew, using vague connections to get his foot in the door, relying on bluffs and wiles to worm access to those who would rather avoid his tacky ways and undissuaded bluster. Just when we’re about to give up on Norman as merely a legend in his own eyes, we witness a big payoff on one of his gambles. Having foisted himself upon a minor Israeli dignitary, Micha Eshel (Ashkenazi), whom he notices admiring a pair of shoes in a Fifth Avenue store window, Norman buys the ridiculously expensive footwear for the politician. Norman’s bank account-breaking bet pays off three years later when Eshel becomes prime minister and remembers his old benefactor, a connection that Norman attempts to parlay into other deals. Yet the deals are not about attaining riches so much as consolidating Norman’s influence among financial players, family, and even his synagogue (where Steve Buscemi plays the rabbi).

Writer/director Joseph Cedar, a New York-born Israeli, builds on the knowing insights evident in his previous film Footnote, which also co-starred Ashkenazi as one-half of a pair of rivalrous Talmudic scholars, who are also father and son. Cedar has an acute understanding of the conflicting intersections of religion, family, personality, and politics. These elements tangle into a beautiful knot in Norman, which, despite a climax and denouement that are conveniently scripted to favor classic tragedy over believability, the film is a sharp and keenly etched study of a man who would be the sidekick to kings.

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail  512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

SAT MAY 27

12:45, 3:45, 7:00, 9:50

SUN MAY 28

12:45, 3:45, 7:00, 9:50

MON MAY 29

12:45, 3:45, 7:00, 9:50

TUE MAY 30

12:45, 3:45, 7:00, 9:50

WED MAY 31

12:45, 3:45, 7:00, 9:50

THU JUN 01

12:45, 3:45, 7:00, 9:50

Cinemark Hill Country Galleria 14

12812 Hill Country Blvd., Bee Cave  800/326-3264

www.cinemark.com/theater_showtimes.asp?theater_id=377

SAT MAY 27

SUN MAY 28

MON MAY 29

TUE MAY 30

WED MAY 31

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second  512/495-9600

www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

SAT MAY 27

10:50am, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00

SUN MAY 28

10:50am, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00

MON MAY 29

10:50am, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00

TUE MAY 30

10:50am, 2:00, 4:30

WED MAY 31

11:00am, 2:00

THU JUN 01

10:50am, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00
READ MORE
More Joseph Cedar Films
Footnote
The usual strife between fathers and sons charts an uncommon course through academia in this laceratingly comic and award-winning Israeli film.

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 13, 2012

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, Joseph Cedar, Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Hank Azaria, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens, Yehuda Almagor, Isaach de Bankolé, Josh Charles, Harris Yulin

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