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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.—Wallace
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 quite 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: It's obviously not a children's film but there isn't anything about the movie that isn't kid-friendly, either. Despite this, it still went unrated in the US because the filmmakers simply decided not to submit it to the MPAA. It could be because the movie would probably pass with a PG-rating (or even a G-rating) since there isn't anything about it that would be inappropriate for children.
- Based on a True Story: Although As Himself may not exactly apply (see above), apparently the events the two discuss are based on real events.
- Building of Adventure: There isn't much of an adventure going on but the movie takes place mostly in the restaurant.
- The Danza: Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, playing characters with those exact names.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's about a guy... who has dinner with Andre.
- Extremely Short Timespan: As one might expect, since it takes place over the course of a single dinner.
- Follow the Leader: Richard Linklater's best films (Slacker, Waking Life, the Before films) follow the same narrative structure, though in his films, his protagonist(s) don't remain in a single location.
- Genre Busting: Okay, so what genre would you say this is?
- 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 in particular is probably the most frequently mentioned of the unseen cast.
- Godwin's Law: Andre likes to throw references to Hitler and the word "fascistic" around quite liberally.
- Le Film Artistique
- Minimalism: And how.
- 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.
- No Antagonist: The closest the film gets is a philosophical disagreement between friends, and they're quite civil about it.
- No Ending: The argument ends without any real resolution or one side triumphing; Wallace and Andre merely finish their meal and say their goodbyes.
- Popcultural Osmosis: The Simpsons has referenced this film a few times, such as My Dinner With Andre: The Video Game.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: The film ends with Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1, and it is awesome.
- Real Time: The movie is almost entirely devoted to the dinner, with only two scenes depicting Wallace arriving for dinner and going home in a taxi breaking this.
- Society Marches On: Sadly, much of the issues raised in the film are still around. The only indication that this is New York in 1980 is that it's much grimier and dirty than it is now.
- Title Drop: The very last line:
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.
- The Tropeless Tale: The very fact this list exists means that the movie isn't this. But it comes damn close.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Wally remains quiet during much of Andre's stories, but in the last third of the film, he calls out Andre on everything.