Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2016)


Cast includes: Richard Gere (Pretty Woman), Lior Ashkenazi (Walk on Water), Michael Sheen (Passengers), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia), Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), Steve Buscemi (Fargo)
Writer/Director: Joseph Cedar (Footnote, Beaufort)
Genre: Light Drama (118 minutes)


Huffington Post

So Norman has another idea he enthusiastically explains to his nephew, Philip, diagramming it on a napkin… 300 million of debt for a fraction of the value… “Just gotta find someone who can do this,” he says. Jo Wilf comes to mind… he could get to Wilf via an introduction from Bill Kavish. “You could introduce me to Bill,” he says to Philip. After a lot of arm-twisting, Philip agrees to get Bill’s email address. “Don’t mention my name.” But Norman keeps pushing. “You’re like a drowning man trying to catch an ocean liner,” Philip says to Norman. “But I’m a good swimmer,” Norman replies.

On his morning run in Central Park, Bill Kavish is set upon by a slightly disheveled, bespectacled man with a business card. “Just give me a minute,” Norman pleads. No one interrupts Bills morning run, and Bill tells Norman that… many times, in increasingly firm ways. “So I’ll tell my partners we had a good conversation,” says Norman as he finally retreats. Norman next sets his sights on Micha Eshel, an Israeli assistant deputy… a title that is more impressive than the actual job. Looking at expensive shoes in the window of Lanvin, Misha is set upon by Norman… a man he’s never met… who immediately offers introductions to important people. Micha wouldn't dream of gate crashing an Arthur Traub dinner. Nor would he dream of buying such expensive shoes. “It would be my privilege to buy you the shoes,” says Norman. “No, no, no” eventually turns into “Are you sure?” And Norman is sure… to the tune of $1,100. (Ouch!) “I’m here to help. How can I help you? What do you need?” “How did you manage that?” asks Philip when Norman tells him that he’s gotten Micha invited to Arthur’s dinner. “Told you, I’m a good swimmer.”

For nearly 2 hours we watch Norman push, lie, finagle and pry his way into relationships with people who try to resist. Eventually he has some success, but his successes are complicated by a web of details too confusing even for Norman to keep track of. There’s something pitifully endearing about Norman, and Richard Gere is phenomenal as the gentle but relentless Norman. “Everyone seems to know who you are, but no one seems to know anything about you,” an investigator says to Norman. Most of us can relate to the notion of trying to resist a relentless do-gooder. The assault of helpfulness can leave us very conflicted… we want to resist; yet resistance makes us feel mean. We spend quite a bit of time during this movie feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed for Norman, who suffers all manor of rejection and bounces back. Writer/director Joseph Cedar has woven a psychological drama that’s so real we often feel that Norman is twisting our own arm. Yet the convoluted plot twists make for a fun journey. When a “friend” gets in trouble, Philip knows Norman’s wheels are turning. “This is too big. Don’t get involved,” he urges Norman. Norman has the look of a whipped dog. “Don’t be creative,” he further urges. “Can you do that?” Norman sheepishly agrees. “I’m a good swimmer,” he reminds Philip… “as long as my head is above water.”

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

A relentless fixer who just can’t take “No” for an answer

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism
Nutshell: Networker and dealmaker
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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