I was beginning to realize that the only way to make this evening bearable, would be to ask Andre a few questions. Asking questions always relaxes me. In fact, I sometimes think that my secret profession is that I'm a private investigator, a detective. I always enjoy finding out about people. Even if they are in absolute agony, I always find it very interesting.
Two men have dinner in a fancy restaurant and discuss life.No, really. That's the entire plot.To go into a bit more detail, My Dinner With Andre is a 1981 movie directed by Louis Malle and written by its stars. In it, Wallace (played by Wallace Shawn), a playwright and actor, goes to a restaurant to meet his old friend Andre (played by Andre Gregory), whom he hasn't seen for a while, and the film essentially follows their conversation over dinner throughout the course of the evening. It begins with Andre discussing his experiences since Wallace has last seen him, which mostly involves experimental theatre in various exotic locales, before the two men become involved in a friendly debate between Andre's spiritualistic and idealistic worldview and Wallace's down-to-earth and pragmatic humanism.Okay, so maybe not the most exciting plot ever. But it's regarded as a cult classic among aficionados of independent cinema for its philosophical themes and minimalist presentation. It's also unique; whatever else can be said, there's not that many movies out there like it. And hey, it's probably one of the most easy-to-summarise movies in existence.
My Dinner With Andre provides examples of:
As Himself: Played with; although the characters are named after the actors who play them, and some of the events they describe apparently happened, both Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory have denied that they are playing themselves entirely. They've stated that were they to remake the movie they'd swap roles to prove the point.
Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The movie went unrated in the US because the filmmakers decided not to submit it to the MPAA. It's not a children's film, but there isn't anything unsuitable for kids either. The movie would probably pass with a PG (or even a G) rating, so maybe the distributors were worried that that might mislead audiences expecting more action.
Bechdel Test: Quite possibly the lowest grade a mainstream movie could receive. It's just two guys talking. Women are barely shown at all.
What's interesting is that only once is sex ever discussed, near the end, and in a tangential way when Andre compares having an affair with getting good reviews for a play. So, this passes the male Bechdel Test with flying colors.
Broken Pedestal: One of the reasons Wally didn't want to meet Andre. He'd heard Andre had been acting strangely. His fears are confirmed.
Building of Adventure: There isn't much of an adventure going on but the movie takes place mostly in the restaurant.
The Ghost: Pretty much everyone mentioned by Wallace and Andre. The most we ever get is a photograph of a Polish woman Andre worked with. Debbie and Chiquita in particular are probably the most frequently mentioned of the unseen cast (Wally's girlfriend and Andre's wife, respectively.)
Godwin's Law: Andre likes to throw references to Hitler and the word "fascistic" around quite liberally.
Minimalist Cast: There are only really two characters in this thing. Well, except for the waiter. But he doesn't really do much, serving dinner aside. Technically, there are a number of extras seen near the beginning, and there are some staff members who have a few lines such as the bartender and the coatchecking girl, but once they actually sit down and start eating the focus becomes entirely on the two of them, with everyone else disappearing aside from a few members of the staff who can occasionally be seen in the background.
Though Louis Malle takes great pains to remind the audience that the duo are in a restaurant, with the mildly disapproving waiter, and the laughter of a female couple on occasion in the background. The intent is to make sure the audience knows that they are just one of many overhearing this conversation.
No Antagonist: The closest the film gets is a philosophical disagreement between friends, and they're quite civil about it. The film also doesn't really take sides, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusion about whether they agree more with Wallace or Andre in their debate.
No Ending: The argument ends without any real resolution or one side triumphing; Wallace and Andre merely finish their meal and say their goodbyes.
I treated myself to a taxi. I rode home through the city streets. There wasn't a street, there wasn't a building, that wasn't connected to some memory in my mind. There, I was buying a suit with my father. There, I was having an ice cream soda after school. And when I finally came in, Debbie was home from work, and I told her everything about my dinner with Andre.