My Dinner with Andre (1981)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

So this is it. The movie that made me want to start writing this blog again. Good job movie. Here’s a hypothetical cookie. You earned it. Before I sat down and watched this movie, everything I knew about it came from the season two episode of Community where Abed invites Jeff out for a birthday dinner and Abed was secretly re-enacting My Dinner with Andre. I of course re-watched the episode after I watched the movie and Danny Pudi nails everything about Andre, including what he orders, making jokes about how they don’t have the exact menu items from the movie. Genius. But I’m not reviewing Community.

The thing that jumped out at me from the every beginning of My Dinner with Andre was Wallace Shawn, who you might know as the guy in Princess Bride who says “inconceivable” every other sentence. (He says “inconceivable” in My Dinner with Andre and I about shit a brick.) Shawn plays himself in name only. The film starts with his monologue about his life as a playwright, about the troubles of life in the city as an artist. Shawn also talks about Andre, a friend and former colleague of his who he had talked to in a while because of Andre’s recent life choices. Andre had sorta dipped out of the rat race of city living and he in turn traveled the world.

Once dinner starts (about ten minutes into the film), it becomes clear that Wallace wouldn’t be getting many words in. Andre talks and talks and talks and talks. And my god is it gripping stuff. To try and explain the magic that is this dialogue driven work of art would be to do it a disservice. One of the main things I took from this movie was the state of art in modern society.

With both characters playing themselves as characters and talking about how art is both a reflection of real life and a work of fiction simultaneously makes the film function as a sort of meta piece where the two actors could very well be talking about their honest to god thoughts and feelings while still delivering practiced lines. In this respect, I found the film compelling.

The only thing holding this film back from being a true five star is the fact that it is a talking heads piece. It did take a small bit of effort to watch at times because of the fact that absolutely nothing happens during the course of the film. This was clearly intended to be a stage play (after all, Wallace “never get in a land war in Asia” Shawn, was a playwright). Well, there’s that and the directing. Not a whole lot going on in that department. To be fair, Louis Malle, didn’t exactly have much to work with. After all, it’s just two dudes having dinner.

All in all though, this movie is highly entertaining. It really got me thinking about the state of society and the constructs that are put on us all really without much of thought on our parts as to why.

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