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'Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer' has too much Norman

Richard Gere stars as Norman Oppenheimer, who is an aspiring businessman but doesn't appear to have anything to offer anybody except empty promises.

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'Norman' stars Richard Gere (l.) and Lior Ashkenazi (r.).

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

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Richard Gere has always been at his best when cast as a species of con artist, and in “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,” he gets a chance to show off his motormouth trickster skills. As the fictional Norman Oppenheimer, he’s playing a man who, though well-dressed at all times, seems to live on the streets. His business card says “Oppenheimer Strategies,” but the strategies mostly consist of Norman mooching his way into elite business precincts ever in search of a good deal.

Oppressively engaging, his tactics rub everybody the wrong way, especially since Norman doesn’t appear to have anything to offer anybody except empty promises. Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar is attempting a modern Jewish fable – Sholem Aleichem meets high-end Manhattan; when Norman convolutedly ends up as a friend of Israel’s new prime minister (Lior Ashkenazi), the fable takes wing. But even with Gere’s standout work, a little of Norman goes a long way, and this film offers up a lot of Norman. Grade: B- (Rated R for some language.) 

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