Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tough to review

Many years ago, well before I would have been old enough to see it and comprehend what it was about, I heard about the movie My Dinner with Andre. Indeed, I might well have heard about it when it was originally released, because I would have been eight or nine years old at the time. Probably most people know what the movie is about. But because I'd actually never seen it, I decided to record it when it finally showed up on TCM.

If there's anybody who doesn't know what My Dinner With Andre is about, the short answer is that it is indeed about a dinner with a man named Andre (French-American theater director Andre Gregory kinda-sorta playing himself, although he's insisted he isn't really playing himself). The man whose dinner it is with Andre is Wallace Shawn, also sort of playing himself, but then not playing himself. Also, as you may know, most of the movie is set in a restaurant with the two having dinner.

But before that, there's some opening monologue from Wally, who here is a struggling actor with a girlfriend. He had been good friends with Andre before Andre more or less dropped out of life some years back. Andre has returned, and an unseen friend has set the two up for dinner. At the dinner, Andre talks about things that in any other movie would be a monologue set up to introduce a flashback, as we see the stories he's telling us actually acted out. But that's where My Dinner With Andre is different. Instead, we just get Andre relating these incidents, with a bit of interjection from Wally to discuss philosophy.

That structure is why, for me, the movie didn't really work. We don't know these people, and we're not really given enough of an establishing story to make us care about the two men. Nor is there any action given to draw the viewer into the story. When I've been to parties where I meet old friends I haven't seen in a while and they talk about what's up with them, that's different. So you can see why Wally would be interested in Andre (Shawn and Gregory were longtime friends in real life).

It also didn't help for me that Andre comes across as a bit of a phony, telling things that are supposedly deep but instead come across as tall tales. Again, if it's someone you already know talking like this, maybe that would work. And maybe even if you're more intimately involved with the arts than someone like me who just enjoys watching old movies, but doesn't actually do any performing, it might also work.

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