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    The Benefactor (2016): Movie Review

    "It just keeps giving without delivering.”

    Richard Gere is a man addicted to giving in director-writer Andrew Rezi’s The Benefactor. In this character study film, a billionaire masks his guilt and seeks love and attention through his excessive and eccentric philanthropic acts. 

    Five years ago, Franny (Gere) was involved in a car crash that took the lives of his married college friends Mia (Cheryl Hines) and Bobby (Dylan Baker). While Franny chose to hole up in a luxurious hotel and drown himself with painkillers prescribed after the collision, the couple’s only daughter Olivia (Dakota Fanning) fled to cope with her grief. Now, Olivia (or Poodles as Franny fondly calls her) returns to Philadelphia a new bride to young doctor Luke (Theo James) and an expectant mother.

    Franny comes alive again and seizes the opportunity to reconnect with Olivia. He buys and presents Olivia the house where she grew up, pays off Luke’s student loan, gets him a job at the hospital he built with his deceased friends, and introduces the new doctor to society events. But despite all his acts of generosity, Franny knows he must eventually confront his inner demons. 

    The Benefactor is intriguing but it would have offered a much pleasing viewing experience if it was able to deal with its element more clearly and satisfyingly. It is a character study film, focusing on a lonely billionaire who has neither job nor a family but has all the luxuries and resources one would ever want. He lauds anyone he wishes and offers gifts one cannot reject. From its precise beginning, the movie splatters into a convoluted tale as it keeps teasing viewers with titillating promises and details. Yet, it lacks enough thrilling elements to support its false sense of maneuver and such promises turn out to be simply distractions to the real issue which is the fact that sixtyish Franny is addicted to drugs and that he needs to get over his guilt. But before that reality is revealed, the movie keeps giving phony, even sinister, suggestions about his fortune and sexuality.

    Even more problematic is its hasty and tacky final act. For a film that explores human pathos, it deals with its material quite blandly and superficially. Hey, for a troubled old man, overcoming an addiction and a trauma could not be as easy as shaving off his beard.

    However, the film still has some strong points and moving moments. It does make us empathize with Franny and feel sorry for his predicaments. The man obviously has a heart, touchingly observed when he consoled a frightened child. Plus, it is Richard Gere and the veteran actor can’t help but deliver another profound and well understood performance.

    Like its central character, The Benefactor is lost by giving a little of too many things. It has an intriguing premise with a handful of great actors to deliver the story. Yet, it just keeps teasing and the core issue is never dealt with handsomely. 

    Production companies: Celerity Pictures, TideRock Media, Treehouse Pictures, Follow Through Productions, Soaring Flight Productions, Andax Films, Magnolia Entertainment 
    Cast: Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Clarke Peters, Dylan Baker, Cheryl Hines 
    Director-Screenwriter: Andrew Renzi 
    Producers: Kevin Turen, Jason Michael Berman, Jay Schuminsky, Thomas B. Fore 
    Executive producers: Michael Finley, Ruth Mutch, Walter Kortschak, Justin Nappi, Richard Loughran, Shelley Browning, Michael Diamond, George Paaswell, Andrew Corkin, John Friedberg, Mark Moran  
    Director of photography: Joe Anderson 
    Production designer: Ethan Tobman 
    Costume designer: Malgosia Turzanska 
    Editors: Dean C. Marcial, Matthew Rundell


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