Richard Gere: mensch

Subtitled, somewhat spoilerishly, “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,” this is the story of Norman Oppenheimer, a small-time Jewish operator who prides himself on his connections, many of which are imaginary at best. His main strength is his sheer, endearing persistence. He’d be happy to introduce you to this or that alleged close friend.

He’s a likeable enough old noodge who imagines himself a “fixer” (his office is a cell phone and a shoulder bag), but he’s in it more for the occasional feeling of esteem than for real monetary gain. He needs to matter.

His Big Fish comes one day in the form of a low-level Israeli diplomat (Lior Ashkenazi) whom he befriends and on a whim buys a pair of expensive Italian shoes. As fate and politics would have it, three years later the diplomat is elected prime minister, and Norman’s in the big time.

This keenly observed bit of absurdist realism is directed with wit and visual style by Joseph Cedar (Footnote), a New York-born Israeli.  

But what makes this complex and detailed character study a standout is the absolutely spot-on performance by Richard Gere in the title role, doing some of his best work in years. Who knew?

The accomplished ensemble cast includes Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi (as a Rabbi!), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Hank Azaria, Dan Stevens and Harris Yulin. The wonderfully whimsical score is by Japanese trumpeter Jun Miyake.

My only kvetch is the few passages in Hebrew, un-subtitled in the print I saw. Oy vey, that’s irritating. (118 min)