“My Dinner With Andre” is both a movie I strongly recommend but at the same time recommend with reservations. It is not a movie with car chases, explosions, a booming pop soundtrack, or any members of the brat pack. It is a hour and fifty minute conversation between actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn during a single dinner at an upscale hotel. Period. But what makes My Dinner With Andre a great movie is that conversation. I first learned of this movie by watching the Siskel and Ebert television review but never intended to see it. A few years later it was on my local PBS station and I decided to sample the first ten minutes just to see what all the hubbub was all about. Before I knew it I had watched the entire movie. Their conversation is riveting, but with a provision; You have to be open minded and interested in listening to what they have to say. I can imagine many people watching the first five minutes and then turning the DVD off. That would be their loss. For those who do continue watching and listening we learn that Andre Gregory had dropped out of society and had traveled around the word for the past few years participating in experimental theater and generally experiencing life.
The conversation gradually drifts into the philosophy of existence and finally into a polite argument as to which person’s lifestyle was better, Andre’s new found new age lifestyle or Wallace’s material lifestyle. In the midst of this conversation are stories about druid ceremonies in the woods, being buried alive, monks who can do a handstand on just two fingertips, a woman who ate nothing but chicken and ultimately died, demon creatures who appear in European churches, the scientific method v.s. dogma, and how the human spirit has died off since the 1960’s. During the 80’s there had been many action movies that only needed a few scenes of dialog where they were unable to come up with anything intelligent. What did pass for intelligent dialog was “You are the disease and I am the cure”, or “Go ahead. Make my day.” My Dinner With Andre manages to have intelligent dialogue for an entire 110 minutes without relying on anything else.
For those of you who are open minded enough I am sorry to say that My Dinner With Andre is currently out of print, but not impossible to find.
Amazon has a few new copies still available as does Half.com, and both are also selling some used copies. The film is also available for rent and possible purchase of used copies from Netflix, Blockbuster, and CD Universe.