Cinema Review: The Benefactor | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 26th, 2020  

The Benefactor

Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Directed by Andrew Renzi

Jan 13, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Occasionally, a film’s purpose is not really to tell a story, but to simply deliver a performance, a character study that deserves a well-rounded, thoughtful approach from a talented and experienced actor. The Benefactor, the debut film from director Andrew Renzi, is just such a film. Richard Gere dives headfirst into a complicated and rewarding role as Franny, a wealthy philanthropist who survives a car crash that kills his married best friends. Years later, their grown daughter (Dakota Fanning) reaches out, and Franny immediately bestows numerous gifts up her and her fiancé (Theo James), including a coveted job at the hospital Franny owns.

The plot more or less makes excuses to explore Franny’s erratic behavior, and occasionally at the cost of potentially revelatory character developments and relationships. Dakota Fanning’s talents are criminally underused in The Benefactor, reducing her character to merely a kickstart for the complicated and uncomfortable forced friendship between Gere and James’ characters. What’s worse is that through all of these scenes, there is never much drama to go on other than addiction fueled misbehavior, but the film is never clear on what we are supposed to take away from these outbursts. There are hints of Franny’s obsession, of his grief, but they never quite coalesce into a multi-dimensional character. It is an interesting study in what happens when a film spends too much effort on one great character, but leaves the rest to merely squander in his orbit, and how detrimental it is to all the great work put into that character in the first place.

There are some great ideas working in The Benefacotr, like the rarely defined power of giving, and its potential for oppression, or the human complexity of emotional proxies, and an overall question of what makes a family. But the film is still clumsy, introducing tensions that are never fully established, and resolving major conflicts without any sort of catharsis. Gere is predictably fantastic, but in the end, The Benefactor just too dull and sloppy to deliver a story a character like Franny deserves.

Author rating: 5/10

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