“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”
― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
The new movie Norman, starring Richard Gere reminded me of this quote from Henry David Thoreau almost as soon as the film started. Norman Oppenheimer, played by Gere, is what is called a fixer who lives in New York City. A fixer is a deal maker who collects friends and business relationships by asking, “What do you need”, “What can I do for you”. Richard Gere does a great job playing this character who is a dauntless, relentless and annoying person always trying to make a deal with someone. Norman tells lies to people he meets and is lied to in return. He is given phone numbers by the people he harasses on the street and these people almost never answer his call or return the messages he leaves. His entire life and career are in the hands of the people he thinks are his friends or who he has done business with in the past, but they are clearly not his friends. During this entire film, Oppenheimer learns over and over again what he already knows, that all of these people will only show him respect if he makes money for them, otherwise they could care less about Norman Oppenheimer.
This film is complicated by Norman’s relationship with of all people the prime minister of Isreal and Norman’s attempts to save a Jewish temple by trying to orchestrate a deal to have a benefactor donate 7 million dollars. All of this leads to a very involved conclusion that I found to be very well done but perhaps unnecessarily complex. The actor Hank Azaria plays another fixer in New York City who runs into Norman Oppenheimer and there was very well done scene where Norman sees his annoying self in this other lower level fixer. I also found it interesting to know that there are fixers like this in the world, living right at the edge of survival in quiet desperation.
I thought the story of this movie was very well told and the acting well done and I do recommend Norman.