Spoiler Alert: “Norman” and “Their Finest”

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Two emotional film dramas opened last week, but neither of them has the usual happy ending that such stories are wont to do. Rather than reveal their conclusions, however, I will say that, given the respective journeys of their main characters, their resolutions were inevitable.

The eponymous “Norman” is a macher, the Yiddish term for a wheeler-dealer, who, after a checkered lifetime plying his trade in the Jewish and financial communities of New York, expands his activities into Israeli politics. The title role is played by Richard Gere in a nuanced performance that echoes Laurence Olivier’s memorable interpretation of a second rate English musical hall performer in “The Entertainer.”

Their Finest Poster“Their Finest” is a story set in London during the early days of World War II when the British film industry was churning out an assembly line of patriotic films. In an effort to get beyond those films’ usual treacly sentimentality (one of the characters calls it “slop”), the producers turn the task over to a junior screenwriter played by Gemma Arterton. Her efforts succeed and she transforms the film being made-within-the film, but in the process, her own personal life becomes highly-charged with sentimentality. Resolution with a happy ending would be anathema.

Enough said. Just see them.

Jerry Weissman

 

 

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