My Dinner with Andre consists entirely of a conversation in a New York restaurant between theatre director Andre Gregory and actor/playwright Wallace Shawn – who were both responsible for the script and play mildly fictitious versions of themselves.
The film begins with ‘Wally’ (Shawn) making his way down a New York street on a bitterly cold day in the fading light on his way to a chic Manhattan restaurant to meet Andre.
Andre, we learn, was Wally’s first mentor but they haven’t met for a few years so he is apprehensive about their impending encounter. He’s heard strange stories about Andre’s eccentric adventures in far-flung locations away from his family and a friend suggested he check on his old mentor after he found him sobbing in the street because of a memory of a line in an Ingmar Bergman film.
Once inside the restaurant, a two-hour conversation between the pair unfolds about art, life, fantasy, reality, theatre, humanity, and Andre’s voyage of personal discovery in numerous countries around the world.
Andre is a man who thinks you have to make life extraordinary, a series of adventures, while Wally is more rooted in reality and the often mundane nature of existence, which he believes can be just as special sometimes without adopting an austere or strange lifestyle.
He is also more aware of the fact that most people don’t have the option to be free and bohemian like Andre as they are too busy riding subway trains to work and trying to pay bills. The two make for fascinating company to eavesdrop on as they discuss everything from the meaning of life to electric blankets.
As this captivating and philosophical film comes to an inconclusive end its only goal was to inspire even a momentary change in perception, and it succeeds. The cult classic status of the film inspired myriad parodies and pop-culture witticisms that riff on the title but this philosophical film invokes genuine reflection.