Richard Gere delivers one of his very best performances as Norman, a New York “businessman” who doesn’t really have a business or a job.
A mysterious, earbud wearing, graying old man riding the trains and grabbing crackers for dinner at the local synagogue, Norman, nevertheless, has big aspirations. A self-professed “good swimmer” fighting to stay afloat, Norman finds himself in the company of an upcoming Israeli politician (an excellent Lior Ashkenazi), and in a moment of generosity/desperateness, buys the man a pair of shoes. That gesture earns him some good favor as the politician becomes the Israeli Prime Minister, and Norman’s act of kindness earns him the man’s friendship. With big friends, comes more notoriety, and Norman finds himself involved in political intrigue and rising responsibility in the NYC Jewish community.
Gere, who basically shrinks himself under a sun cap and trench coat, sparkles in the role, making Norman a memorable, likeable, and appropriately annoying character. Supporting performances from Dan Stevens, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Steve Buscemi round out an excellent cast. Director Joseph Cedar presents the story in surprisingly layered, often funny fashion, with a definite tragedy at its center. Gere’s work here is some of the year’s best so far.