This 1981 movie was highly recommended by an old friend.

It consists of a long conversation in a restaurant between two New York neurotics, played by the actual neurotics (theatre personalities) themselves. Wallace Shawn grumbles about his failure to progress in his career, a largely material problem that is probably far more easily solved than he can see. André Gregory is tentatively recovering from a crisis of confidence and fears the world is falling into a "totalitarian" reign of complacency.

Both of them deserve a sound spanking. And Shawn should probably take a year abroad somewhere.

Although both characters raise a few important issues, the larger tenor of their discussion consists mainly of age-old ideas, and in the garb of the late 1970's I find that discussion more unpleasant than edifying. Gregory's best lines are about the dangers of falling into mindless boredom by letting automatic behaviors take over one's life. Shawn's best lines are when he ridicules Gregory's giddy and egotistical comments about synchronicity. I think Shawn's delivery is a bit better than Gregory's because it is less tragically earnest and more critical. It also appears that Shawn (Shawn's character) learns something from the conversation - he realizes he has things to be happy about, and he goes home to tell his wife about the conversation. I suspect Gregory's character is too far gone to learn anything.

As a movie, because it consists almost entirely of dialogue, I found My Dinner With André very weak indeed. Movies with neither plot nor varied visual content seem to me exceptionally poor use of the medium. In the case of "André", that is surely due to its having been created and acted by stage-people. Will they never learn?

Even accepting the funereal format, I have little sympathy for the neurosis of either character. I suppose I lean more toward Shawn's character these days, though I have in my time indulged in both of these points of view. These days I try to appreciate whatever I encounter in the real world (excluding contrived works of art and actors playing at philosophy). There are many blessings to be grateful for; imagine some of the alternatives and you can hardly help feeling grateful. In particular, I find the infinite detail of the world - both the ugly and the beautiful - quite awe-inspiring, and I am glad to be alive, in spite of the emotional rope-burn I have had along the way. These whining theatre-people tire me.

At the beginning of the movie there is a good scene of the inside of a New York subway train as I remember them from the late 1970's - dim and graffiti-slathered. I was just thinking today that I really could not remember exactly what they looked like back then. I don't think it's synchronicity; I'm just glad to see one of those trains again. I'm glad they're gone, too.