NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER — In Cinemas Friday – Fixer’s In Film Feature
Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) lives a lonely life in the margins of New York City power and money, a would-be operator dreaming up financial schemes that never come to fruition. As he has nothing real to offer, Norman strives to be everyone’s friend, but his incessant networking leads him nowhere. Always on the lookout for someone willing to pay attention to him, Norman sets his sights on Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a charismatic Israeli politician alone in New York at a low point in his career. Sensing Eshel’s vulnerability, Norman reaches out with a gift of a very expensive pair of shoes, a gesture that deeply touches Eshel. When Eshel becomes Prime Minister three years later, he remembers.
With his very real connection to the leader of a major nation, Norman is awash in the respect he has always craved. Flush with his newfound feeling of success, Norman attempts to use Eshel’s name to leverage his biggest deal ever: a series of quid pro quo transactions linking the Prime Minister to Norman’s nephew (Michael Sheen), a rabbi (Steve Buscemi), a mogul (Harris Yulin), his assistant (Dan Stevens), and a treasury official from the Ivory Coast. Norman’s kaleidoscopic plans soon go awry, creating the potential for an international catastrophe he must struggle to prevent.
The new film by Academy Award® nominated director Joseph Cedar (FOOTNOTE) is a comic and compassionate drama of a little man whose downfall is rooted in a human frailty all too easy to forgive—a need to matter.
Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) is a ‘Fixer’ character, stuck on the margins of New York trying to gain entry into its inner workings through a series of negotiations, connections and financial schemes that never reach fruition. Norman is constantly scanning the horizon for his big break when one day he meets an Israeli politician, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a man at a low point in his career. When the pair first meet, Norman realises the potential of this new relationship and so gifts a pair of expensive shoes to Micha who is deeply touched by the gesture.
Three years later the pair meet once more, Micha is now Prime Minister, a title that Norman quickly capitalises on. Utilising the new social circles that he is now a part of in order to make a series of quid pro quo transactions using Micha’s name.
To celebrate the release of Norman on the 9th June. We have looked at other films featuring the ‘Fixer’ type character trope similar to Norman...
The 2007 film sees George Clooney play the title role Michael Clayton, a fixer for a high-end Law firm who is brought in to remedy a situation. Attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has had a manic episode during a deposition against U-North. U-North is an agricultural products firm whose products are having toxic effects on the on both the agriculture and the local farm families in Wisconsin. When Clayton arrives to bail out the now arrested Edens, he discovers the man to be off his medication and in possession of confidential U-North Documents and it is up to Clayton to remedy the situation.
Though Clayton is well paid in his position, he is still somewhat of an outsider, divorced and addicted to gambling for which is now in huge debt. Clayton uses his skills with people, his many connections over the city and his vast knowledge of legal loopholes to broker various deals with companies in order to effectively perform his job.
The Ides of March A second Clooney vehicle, this 2011 film covers a US campaign trail where Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) is running in the Democratic primary election. Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is not only the junior campaign manager for the Governor but also an ambitious staffer whose talent is being noticed by both Campaign parties. Both campaigns are trying to gain the endorsement of North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson.
Stephen becomes the Fixer character when secrets emerge from the campaign trail that Morris has tried to hide, escalating quickly when it is revealed that one of the staffers Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), who Morris has slept with, is now pregnant with Morris's child and it becomes Stephen’s role to fix the situation. Stephen must also recover the campaign’s status after his meeting in secret with the opposing campaign. Ides of March provides a political backdrop for the Fixer character much in the same way Norman’s world becomes political after this meeting with Micha.
Although not strictly focused on the ‘Fixer’ theme, the 1994 film does contain one of cinematic histories’ most iconic ‘Fixer’ characters, ‘The Wolf’ (Harvey Keitel). In the film, The Wolf is requested when characters Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) accidentally shoot a civilian in the back of their car. Owing to the blood now covering the entirety of the back seats, they decide to pull over at friend’s house so as not to be spotted by police. ‘The Wolf’ is now called to fix the situation, though his scene is short, it is an iconic moment and one that sadly is now probably more synonymous with the Direct Line adverts.
Perhaps one of the most famous mafia films of all time, the 1972 Ford Coppola directed film explores the Corleone family as one of the most prolific families in New York. Like any successful mafia family, a Fixer is required to not only manage to numerous business connections the family will have gained over time, but must also contend with any problems that arise for the family. Tom Hagen (Robert Duval) is the ‘Fixer’ for the Corleone family in both The Godfather and it’s sequel The Godfather Part 2.
The quintessential ‘Fixer’, Hagen is respected by those in the family. He is aware of who everyone is and how they are connected within the city, but he is never at the forefront of any business deals and must remain clear-headed to prioritise and solves many a dark and difficult situation for the family over the course of both films.
Not the most conventional of ‘Fixer’ concepts, Chris Nolan’s 2010 film explores the world where through technology people are able to illegally entire someone’s dreams in order to not only influence their decisions but also to steal information from them, such as corporate secrets. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is hired to alter the decisions of a rival company through the owner’s son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Cobb assembles a team of people with the various skills required to complete such a task successfully. One such member is Eames (Tom Hardy), who is the team forger. A forger is someone who, once in another’s dream, is able to manipulate their target into believing the person they see is a figure they can trust by impersonating that individual.
In Inception, Eames manipulates the target by impersonating Fischer’s bodyguard, a man Fischer regards as a father figure. Though this may not be regarded as ‘Fixer’ in the traditional sense of the character trope, Eames’s role is something quite similar in the regards to the narrative of the film. Eames is required to learn Fischer’s family, know their connections, and control the situation by manipulation in order to change the client’s mind and ultimately fix the problem.
Though Eames is acquainted with all members of the party, once the mission begins they traditionally must remain on the margins of the operation as they are nearly always in close proximity to the target, persuading, bargaining and manipulating the target to achieve the aim of the mission.
NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER IS OUT IN UK CINEMAS FROM JUNE 9