Film Review: ‘The Dinner’

More entree than main course, Menno Meyjes' adaptation of Herman Koch's novel is a pretentious talkathon.

'The Dinner' Review: Menno Meyjes' Pretentious Talkathon

Purporting to examine contemporary social malaise in the Netherlands, “The Dinner” is more entree than main course. Best known as screenwriter of several Steven Spielberg films in the ‘80s, writer-director Menno Meyjes, adapting the bestselling novel by Herman Koch, fails to elucidate what this tale of two couples keeping mum about their children’s criminal activity has to do with the Dutch zeitgeist, leaving a pretentious talkathon where a rigorous critique might have been. Strong thesping, particularly by Jacob Derwig as the more obnoxious of the fathers, isn’t enough to help a viewer digest “The Dinner,” spelling limited Euro consumption.

Volatile, acerbic Paul (Derwig), his politician brother Serge (Daan Schuurmans), and their wives (Thekla Reuten, Kim van Kooten) meet in a swanky restaurant for dinner to discuss what to do about the fact that their teenage sons, Michel (Jonas Smulders) and Rick (Serge Mensink), have committed a heinously violent crime. Michel appears to have inherited Paul’s seething rage, but the blackly comic pic remains aloof on that matter; so, too, Meyjes scrambles narrative chronology in a way that keeps the audience at an unnecessary remove. Tech credits are serviceable.

Film Review: ‘The Dinner’

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9, 2013. Running time: 88 MIN. Original title: "Het diner"

  • Production: (Netherlands) An Eyeworks Film & TV, Inspire Pictures, RTL Entertainment production. (International sales: Media Luna New Films, Cologne.) Produced by Maarten Swart, Reinout Oerlemans. Executive producers, Caldecott Chubb, Ronald van Wechem. Co-producer, Sim Van Veen.
  • Crew: Directed, written by Menno Meyjes, from the novel by Herman Koch. Camera (color, HD), Sander Snoep; editor, Michiel Reichwein; music, Fons Merkies; production designer, Alfred Schaaf; costume designers, Marian Van Nieuwenhuyzen, Marion Boot; sound, Peter Flamman, Wart Wamsteker; line producer, Erwin Godschalk.
  • With: Jacob Derwig, Thekla Reuten, Daan Schuurmans, Kim van Kooten, Jonas Smulders, Serge Mensink, Andre Dongelmans. (Dutch dialogue)