My Dinner With Andre (1982)

“We can’t be direct, so we end up saying the weirdest things.”

My Dinner With Andre Poster

Synopsis:
When a struggling playwright (Wallace Shawn) meets an old friend (Andre Gregory) for dinner, a surprisingly rich conversation ensues.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of this Louis Malle-directed film (co-written by Shawn and Gregory) by admitting he’s “0 for 2 at staying awake through the entire talk-a-thon”, but he eventually admits that “the two men are engaging, and much [of the] conversation is funny and/or incisive”. He writes that “anyone who has been to a party of artistes can identify with Shawn”, who at first “feigns interest” and “asks follow-up questions so he doesn’t have to contribute to the conversation”, but eventually “joins the intellectual discourse”. I’m only partially in agreement with Peary that it’s “hard to maintain interest through Gregory’s long monologues”, and in general am more enthusiastic about the film than Peary seems to be. The friends’ conversation feels both authentic and provocative, representing the type of perspective-shifting discourse that one occasionally longs for. Gregory’s soul-searching adventures (oh my, the stories he tells!) are perfectly indicative of the Baby Boomer “me” generation run amok, and nicely balanced by Shawn’s more grounded philosophy of finding joy in seemingly mundane moments. By the end of this meaty discussion, you can’t help feeling like you’ve been asked to take a deep look at your own perspective on life, happiness, and the search for meaning.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A fine screenplay and natural, engaging performances
    My Dinner With Andre Gregory
    My Dinner With Andre Shawn

Must See?
Yes, once, as an oddly compelling cinematic venture.

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One Response to “My Dinner With Andre (1982)”

  1. Not must-see. Too esoteric for the average ff.

    Like Peary, I also tried to watch this (previously) more than once and just couldn’t get through much of it. I realize now that part of the reason for that is that, during the first hour of the film, Shawn says almost nothing. He listens to Gregory go on and on and on about his feelings of ennui and disillusionment and what he has done to try to get beyond both.

    What Gregory goes on about is so off-the-wall (and so uninterrupted) that you mostly wonder, ‘Where the hell could this possibly be going?’

    I finally did watch ‘MDWA’ all the way through now, so I know where Gregory was leading. (I still think that an hour to get to that point is murder to viewers.)

    Once Gregory begins to expound on life problems that are quite easy to relate to (mainly those involving what life means and how people behave in modern society), it’s somewhat easier to be drawn in. However, even in the second half, there are little segues into peripheral intellectual matters that manage to thwart the film once it finally finds its feet. But, at least at that point, Shawn has joined in for more of the conversation.

    I can’t really think of this as a film or see Gregory and Shawn as acting. This was an experiment that grew from the two men getting together to just talk…which was transcribed to hundreds of pages, apparently. But this is who these men are, so there’s nothing to act.

    And there was nothing for Louis Malle to direct. I’ll admit that some of the observations touched on are well-put but I would guess that this film would cause many to nod off early.

    I suppose I’m glad I got through it, finally. And, like ‘Nanook of the North’ and other oddities, I can say I met the challenge (and it *is* a challenge) of watching it. I think I enjoyed ‘Nanook’ more, though.

    NOTE: I was naturally reminded of the wonderful joke at the end of ‘Waiting for Guffman’: Christopher Guest’s character has opened up his own novelty shop. He shows us his ‘My Dinner With Andre Action Figures’ and demonstrates how you can enjoy them by playing both sides of the conversation as you make it up.

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