The Dinner

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Dinner Movie Poster Image
Talky, disturbing drama about privilege and morals.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The most prominent message is related to the many huge, complicated questions raised when when three young teens bully a homeless woman, accidentally light her on fire, and then stand back and film it, while laughing. What causes this kind of behavior? Are wealth and privilege to blame? Where was their basic human decency?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stan is a politician who seems to want to do the right thing, to exact some kind of justice, but he's met with strong opposition. The movie finds that there's no easy answer. The teens who perpetrate the main event are clearly in no way role models.

Violence

Extremely disturbing images of a homeless woman set on fire by teens; they laugh and film her as she burns. Punching, fighting, kicking. Arguing, taunting. Threatening with rock. Punching mirror, with blood stain on broken glass. Brief images of violent video game. Reference to stepping on a land mine. References to bloody battles in the Civil War. Reference to a "molester."

Sex

Brief images of teens kissing at party. Brief sexual references.

Language

Very strong language throughout, including "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, "a--hole," "p---y," "bitch," "goddamn," "moron," and "shut your face." Also "Jesus Christ" and "God" (as exclamations) and a middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism

Google mentioned. Several social media apps/platforms mentioned in a verbal tirade: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief images of teens drinking, smoking cigarettes, and smoking pot. Adults drink at dinner. Some drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dinner is a talky drama about a family in crisis. Its intense material and bleak outlook make it inappropriate for younger viewers. The central incident is extremely disturbing: Teens are shown taunting and harassing a homeless woman, setting her on fire, and then laughing and filming as she burns. There are other scenes of fighting, punching, and threatening, as well as constant arguing and some blood. Language is extremely strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more. Teens are shown kissing at a party, and there's some sex talk. Teens also drink, smoke cigarettes, and smoke pot, while adult characters drink all during dinner; some get drunk. Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, and Rebecca Hall co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPawel L. May 6, 2017

Horrible

This movie is the worst I have ever seen, waste of time and money. Ending was horrible director is not good at all. Richard Gere I'm sorry bit this movie w... Continue reading
Adult Written byMelissa Z. May 10, 2017

Although brutal to watch, glad I saw it.

Although The Dinner is not a pleasant experience, the writing and acting carried it and made it quite compelling as an experience adults won't readily forg... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byjackadair8 September 18, 2017

Good Theme, Bland Production!

This being the year 2017, the film's theme holds more importance than ever before, it being accountability. This is a massive problem among American youth,... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE DINNER, troubled former history teacher Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) reluctantly prepares for dinner at a fancy restaurant; his wife, Claire (Laura Linney), is looking forward to it. They've been invited by Paul's brother, congressman Stan (Richard Gere), and Stan's second wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). The four begin bickering and snapping at one another, with various histories and perceived betrayals bubbling up among the fancy food and drink. Eventually it becomes clear that Stan has invited them all for a reason. Their kids were involved in a horrific incident involving a homeless woman, and now Stan wants to try to do the right thing. But Claire objects, wishing to protect her son at all costs. Who will win the argument, and what's really at stake?

Is it any good?

Though it's admirably complex and intelligent, this talky drama quickly gives way to exasperation as its relentlessly irritating, chronically demoralizing parts pile up to form a bleak whole. Based on a novel by Herman Koch, The Dinner puts several issues on the table, including mental illness, splintering family units, politics, history, and the morals of the privileged class, as well as the concept of "affluenza." But, perhaps in an effort to artificially build suspense, the movie hides what it's really up to, using flashbacks and asides as distraction, rather than illumination.

Director Oren Moverman and star Gere previously collaborated on the equally bleak but enormously cinematic and moving Time Out of Mind, and Moverman's earlier works like The Messenger were likewise simple, profound explorations of human tragedy. The Dinner is far too cluttered and stagnant to achieve the same effect. The entire movie is talking, with the four main characters each occasionally storming away from the table to argue in pairs. Garish lighting and frustrating sound effects (phone alerts are constantly heard) only help escalate the film's mood of hopeless hostility.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Dinner's violent, disturbing content. How did the scenes with the homeless woman make you feel? Do you think something like that could happen in real life?

  • How does the movie depict of teen smoking and drinking? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • When the adults argue over what should be done about the situation, who is more correct? Why?

  • What view does the movie have of family? Are there any positives to balance out the negatives?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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