‘Norman’ name-drops but doesn’t quite jell

“Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” depicts the desperate doings of a small-time social climber who, after years of fruitless scheming, strikes gold in the form of a close connection to a head of state. An entertaining lead performance engages us in the manic world of a protagonist who, in real life, we’d want to shoo away. But too much plot and not enough cohesiveness undermine the movie’s emotional impact and narrative clarity.

The film is the English-language debut of Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar, who made the Oscar-nominated “Beaufort” and “Footnote.” Here, he combines a thriller, a satire, a character study and a Jewish fable. He includes fine moments in all those arenas, but the different components don’t quite come together compellingly.

Richard Gere, in his latest adventurous outing, plays Norman Oppenheimer, an always-moving gray-haired fixer with a camel-hair coat, a black suit, a cap and a cellphone with earbuds. A shameless name-dropper who constantly needs to feel significant, Norman pulls strings, does favors and makes impossible promises in New York’s Jewish community. His nephew (Michael Sheen), who may be his only family and friend, likens him to a “drowning man trying to wave at an ocean liner.”

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