The Benefactor review

The great Gere, one of the most underrated performers in the business, is on excellent form here as a billionaire philanthropist grieving over the death of his two dear friends, friendly couple Baker and Hines.  A nasty car accident for which he believes himself responsible for their demise renders Gere's Franny (the movie's shooting title) a bedraggled, morphine-addicted mess. But when the late couple's pregnant 20-something daughter (Fanning) turns up with her husband (James) five years later, Franny inveigles himself into their lives to a degree that isn't always welcome.

This could've been a ripe subject for a comedy, what with the overbearing old guy constantly embarrassing the young marrieds with financial aid and contacts, but instead we get a rather manipulative melodrama that is a tepid look at grief. It's all watchable enough but it tries too hard in eliciting an emotional response and one is never moved by the heartfelt efforts it so determinedly demonstrates.

Gere is terrific however – far better than the scenario surrounding him. He never gives up a movie as lost and here, with his white hair and beard, limping on a walking stick, he gives a vigorous turn that is formidably powerful. He's a wonderful actor. It's just a shame that this well-meaning affair never matches his considerable talents.

Doug Cooper is a Screenjabber contributor

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