My Dinner with Andre is something of a film stunt, consisting almost entirely of a conversation over dinner between two theatrical acquaintances. Though conforming to the aloof, cooly observant mode of director Louis Malle’s previous pics, Andre is really authored by its two players, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, doubling as screenwriters.
Shawn, a cherubic figure roughly playing himself as a sometime playwright and actor, is the audience surrogate, even bookending the film with his voiceover narration accompanying tracking shots of him on the streets of New York City. Somewhat apprehensive, he has dinner at a posh restaurant with Andre, portrayed also semi-autobiographically by theatre director Andre Gregory.
What ensues is an overlong but mainly captivating conversation, consisting largely of stream of consciousness monologs by Gregory.
Where the picture fails is in its lack of balance between the two protagonists. For the first half, Shawn is acceptable in closeup inserts, reacting or just listening to Gregory. However, in the second half Gregory begins making philosophical conclusions which require response or rebuttal and Shawn’s haltingly expressed ‘little guy’ comebacks are inadequate and type his entire performance as comedy relief.