BY ROGER THOMAS
Actually, I did not reveal the entire title of the film above. “Norman” is the title but there is also a subtitle. Here is the complete title of this intriguing film: “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.” Now that is a title!
Does this second title capture your imagination? If it does not, that is ok. It did not grab me at first either. But the more I watched Norman, obviously the main character, the more I understood his life, and his attempts at success, the more I empathized with him, and the more I hoped he would succeed.
There is a lot going on in the film. It was all surprises for me because I had not even seen a trailer for the film. Therefore, I will try not to reveal anything about the plot. May it unfold for you as it did with me, filled with twists and turns and surprises.
I will offer a couple of thoughts however. First, Richard Gere is great. This film should have been released toward the end of the year. That way the film might have consideration for some awards. Not knowing what is coming up, it is hard to know if Gere’s performance will even be remembered. As for now, I think it is subtilely grand.
I remember seeing Gere when I was in college in his role as Zack Mayo in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He had done other films before but “Officer and Gentleman” was a great success. Gere’s character was all bravado and us young college boys were envious of his appeal to the young ladies.
Eight years later, he did another role which almost eclipsed his “Officer” performance. That little film made a star out of the title character, “Pretty Woman” played by Julia Roberts. The film also reminded fans how much they liked Gere. He received Golden Globe nominations for both “Officer” and “Pretty Woman” but he eventually won the Globe for the musical “Chicago.”
The character Norman is as far from Mayo, Lewis or “Chicago’s” Billy Flynn as any characters could be. In all four films, Gere makes the audience care about these incredibly different men.
Another element that makes the film intriguing is the politics. Many shy away from that word especially with the strong opinions circulating these days. I am pretty sure that neither of our two prominent political parties are mentioned in the film, but there is a lot of politicking by many of the characters.
Then there are the unique twists and turns of the plot. I write often that I want to be taken somewhere I did not expect. I never want the same old thing. Norman kept my attention because I went in knowing nothing and was surprised as things developed.
I should offer a warning, the first fifteen minutes did make me wonder where we were going. There is a scene in a men’s store and specifically a pair of shoes that had me asking, “Am I supposed to know what is going on?” It will make sense and there is much more to come after the shoe store scene early on.
“Norman” is written and directed by Joseph Cedar. I looked up his previous films but I had never heard of any of them. I hope he has more ideas and I hope those stories will be as insightful.
Finally, as I close this review, let me offer one other thought. “Norman…” has one of the best endings of this year. To say more would be stealing the experience from others. However, the ending is no better than the whole story.
“Norman” still surprises me; I did not expect to enjoy it so much.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.