Posted: Friday, March 17, 2017 – 12:44 PM
I think all of us, even those not from New York, have at one time or another, come into contact with a human parasite whose visions of success and grandeur often prove to be disastrous. In Norman…The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer, Norman Oppenheimer is played by Richard Gere, offering him a chance to rise above mundane film roles given to actors in their late 60s—and rise he does. Gere is wonderful as a persistent and at times overbearing parasite who offers favors to people and uses them as stepping stones to atmospheric heights. Through a lucky break, he meets a lonely Israeli politician Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) who happens to be in Manhattan for a debate with a member of an opposing party.
Norman cozies up to Eshel following the debate and they walk down the street. Eshel stops at a high-end clothing store and is impressed with the clothing in the display window. Norman coaxes him to go in and eventually winds up buying the politician a $1,200 pair of shoes—a purchase he can hardly afford. Eshel returns to Israel and loses contact with Norman. A few years later, Eshel, who has risen to become prime minister, returns to New York.
Following a speech, he is mobbed by the crowd eagerly waiting to shake his hand. Among the well wishers is Norman hoping to be recognized by the PM. He is. Eshel, calls Norman to the podium and wraps his arms around his old friend introducing him to the crowd, with many people who have been trying to avoid him for years.
Norman is now a part of the “in” circle. At last he is a “macher” —a wheeler dealer —with papers. He manages to help his rabbi, played sympathetically by Steve Buscemi (yes, that Steve Buscemi) with a few non-rabbinical words thrown in. He links the PM to his nephew (Michael Sheen), helps Eshel’s son and completes a few other sought after deals for others all the while taking another step up the ladder en-route to the top rung.
Does Norman get there? Why does it say, “Tragic Fall of a New Yorker” in the movie’s title? Remember those shoes he bought for Eshel…
Writer/Director Joseph Cedar has woven an interesting and complex story that would serve better as a TV series. He packs a lot of intrigue into two very long hours but lacks the necessary jarring circumstances needed to jolt the film into a more memorable experience. The acting is uniformly excellent as is Hank Azaria’s appearance as a parasite wannabe ready to climb the ladder.
3 bagels out of 4
Jerry Cutler, the Courier’s film critic, is rabbi at Creative Arts Temple.