A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
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?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.