Considering that most of “The Dinner” (opening Friday) is set in an uber-haute cuisine restaurant (think Chicago’s Alinea on steroids), it seemed fair to ask one of the film’s stars, Laura Linney, if she has a favorite fancy eatery in Chicago.
The award-winning actress laughed as she said, “I have had some lovely fine-dining experiences in Chicago, but they have been primarily at my mother-in-law’s house. That’s where the fine dining happens in the Schauer household,” said Linney, referring to her husband Marc Schauer’s family’s home in the western suburbs. “My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook!”
Linney is now on Broadway in her Tony-nominated role in “The Little Foxes.” In “The Dinner,” she plays the wife of a former teacher (Steve Coogan), a man whose serious psychological problems become increasingly clear. His estranged brother (Richard Gere) is a popular congressman who is in the midst of a race for governor. Gere’s character’s wife is played by Rebecca Hall, and we quickly learn she’s far from the “trophy wife” she appears to be in the movie’s opening scenes.
The crux of the strained dinner they share is a discussion of how to handle a horrible crime that involves the couples’ sons.
This was Linney’s third film with Gere after “The Mothman Prophecies” and the Chicago-made “Primal Fear,” which Linney noted “was one of the first movies I did.” The 1996 crime thriller proved a starmaking vehicle for the then-unknown Edward Norton.
Linney also loved working with Coogan and Hall, and pointed out that “we shot this film last winter, when it was very, very cold here in the Northeast. The filming was all done at night. … We got to know each other very well, learning how well each of us dealt with that extreme cold weather, and with working up to 4 o’clock in the morning! We soldiered through it all together.”
In the movie, Linney’s character is shown as being fanatical about covering up their sons’ crime — no matter the cost. What that cover-up will teach the boys as a life lesson is of little importance to her.
“Claire is certainly a fighter and a survivor. She’s survived cancer and her husband’s breakdown. Her child has issues, and she clearly has her own issues. But there’s a ferocity about her. She will not let go. There’s a certainty and all-knowing quality about her, and that’s a real effective survival technique.
“But, of course, she is ethically very challenged and does things and says things that are highly questionable.”