- Colin Fraser
A hopeful political fixer works to spark a relationship between an Israeli politician and US business interests.
Starring Richard Gere and Michael Sheen
There are clear guidelines about the sorts of films you should watch on a plane. Indie films often reconstruct time in a lethargic fashion that may be pleasing in a cinema, but at 30,000 feet with 23 hours of flight time ahead of you, not so much. So it is with NORMAN: THE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER whose spun narrative is best avoided on a trans-polar flight. Starring Richard Gere who conjures up one of his finest performances in years, NORMAN tells the story of an unlikely man whose connections help others get deals done. Quite what Norman gets out of it is the heart of this tale, for here is a man who is quite probably penniless, certainly homeless and runs his ‘business’ from any eatery, church or other public space where he can get a mobile signal. His capacity to work on anything, from anywhere, certainly speaks to the age of digital disruption and underemployment. So opaque is his professional persona and personal agenda that even Norman is struggling to understand who, or what, NORMAN is. The plot (he’s trying to fix a deal between an Israeli politician and US businessmen) is largely background to larger themes the film is hoping to address. It takes some time for Norman to take shape, and so fluid is that character that you’re never entirely sure he actually has before the end credits roll. It’s enigmatic viewing to say the least. There’s more than a touch of classical stage about NORMAN: think Miller or Stoppard; and in Gere’s deft hands, the inscrutable everyman / no man becomes someone you care about while not truly understanding why. No easy task when a little of this character goes a very long way (see above re the perils of indie films on flights): think of Norman as the sad, humourless alter-ego to one of Woody Allen’s more frustrating characters. Yet for all these shades of grey, NORMAN is oddly colourful and compelling, a film that will have cinema audiences chomping at the bit to deconstruct. Just not those still 23 hours from destination.