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Stars: Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Clarke Peters, Cheryl Hines, Dylan Baker
Director: Andrew Renzi
Faced with first time feature film director Andrew Renzi’s sentiment-saturated screenplay – a curiously old-fashioned affair that, for me, recalled the lush, larger-than-life emotional dramas that emerged from Universal some 50 or 60years ago – Richard Gere sensibly settles for a performance that is not only larger-than-life but one that also reduces the rest of the cast to the category of supporting players.
The first actors to leave the film, relatively early on, are married couple Dylan Baker and Cheryl Hines who are killed in a car crash while wealthy friend Gere survives, ending up on life support. (Oddly, given current hostility towards tobacco, Gere was the only one smoking).
Five years later, confirming Gere’s line, “Starting a new life – don’t take too much baggage from the old one”, we meet him again as a wealthy recluse with a massive beard that puts Moses to shame and ludicrous long straggly hair that puts the movie’s wigmaker to shame and makes Ian McKellen’s Gandalf seem bald by comparison.
Now he is wealthy enough to be known as the King of Philadelphia. And,
still tormented by pain from the accident, he’s also a morphine addict which eventually triggers off a potent scene where he attempts to use his name and fame to con a pharmacist into giving him some morphine without a prescription…
But his fame and fortune come into play when he becomes the over-arching benefactor of Baker and Hines’ recently married and now-pregnant daughter Dakota Fanning and her doctor husband Theo James, with inevitably melodramatic results…
It’s Gere’s show from start to finish and while he looks his age he is still dapper and saturated with star charisma and most of the time delivers a fascinating performance that is probably the only major reason to see the movie.
(Incidentally, when The Benefactor was shown at the Trbeca Film Festival in April 2015, it still sported its original title Franny, the name of Gere’s character).
USA 2015. UK Distributor: Arrow. Colour.
92 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.
Review date: 27 Feb 2016