School: Maria Carrillo High
Favorite movie: Donnie Darko
Favorite vacation spot: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Favorite band: Coldplay
Favorite television show: 30 Rock
Next step: University of Pennsylvania
Projected college major: Chemistry
This review was first published in the Maria Carrillo Puma Prensa.
My Dinner with André
The premise is simple: Two friends, after several years apart, meet for dinner and talk. There is no dream diving, time traveling or parallel universe jumping. There are no flashbacks, visions or subplots. While entertainment cycles through the kaleidoscope effect of the MTV craze, My Dinner with André remains, nearly 30 years after its release in 1981, a vision of storytelling stripped of the stylized artifice that has put the cinema in the stranglehold of a noisy ruckus. It returns the art of communication to its roots: two people having a conversation, perhaps the conversation.
A harebrained scheme that seemed destined for failure, My Dinner with André features astoundingly realistic performances by its two characters, Wallace Shawn and André Gregory, and rightfully so, seeing as how they play themselves. Gregory is a theater director who has spent the last few years wandering the forests of Poland, dunes of the Sahara and gardens of Scotland in search of some unidentifiable key to being alive. Shawn, best known for his performance as Vizzini the Sicilian in The Princess Bride, is also a man of the theater. However, he is the polar opposite of Gregory in his career pursuits, bound to his life in New York City, where habit and fear stifle his ability to thrive. Though Shawn has avoided Gregory for years due to rumors of Gregory’s eccentricities such as “talking to trees” and other peculiarities, he finally meets with Gregory again. The discussion that follows is a poignant examination of what it means to truly be alive and conversely, what it means to accept death.
Though their musings encompass a great deal about the human condition, they seem most directly related to their mutual love for the theater, which has been turned to disillusionment due to the modern audience’s addiction to superficiality. This transition prompts an epiphany for André: “ I could always live in my art, but never in my life.” His sporadic travels abroad represent his attempt to live not just on the stage of theater, but in the theater of life as well.
Created by Gregory and Shawn and directed by Louis Malle, the film initially presents a challenge to its viewers in its length and unwavering content, particularly for generations that have been saturated with fast-paced editing. But those who invest themselves in the conversation’s rich insight and artful filmmaking by the director of Au Revoir Les Enfant will find it rewarding, far beyond expectations. It is a film that grossed just over $5,000 in its opening weekend, yet has the potential to change the lives of its audience forever. Additionally, the first viewing inevitably leads to second and third viewings, which are equally satisfying.
The daring to make a film consisting solely of a conversation encapsulates everything My Dinner with André strives to communicate: a brazen sense of enthusiasm to free oneself from the chains of social convention, habit and the fear of death. Take the plunge, and by the end, you will be clambering to tell everyone about your dinner with André.