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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Guilt Trip
by Betty Jo Tucker

Burdened with guilt, a rich man tries

to make things right. But he’s not wise.

Intruding with a heavy touch,

he meddles in way, way too much.


The Benefactor tells a tale

of such actions which soon grow stale.

Playing the lead is Richard Gere,

his acting skill in top-notch gear.  


Dakota Fanning nails her part.

She’s grown-up now, showing her art.    

Theo James, a most handsome guy,

portrays the man Gere wants to buy.


Would you bow to philanthropy

if all your debts were paid, you see?

What would you have to do for that?

Would you give in to tit-for-tat?  


The Benefactor film warns you

just what might happen if you do!

Before the credits for The Benefactor even roll, we meet a happy Franny (Richard Gere)  with his best friends. Sadly, that sequence ends with a shock. Then jumping to five years later, we see Franny as a lonely man practically hiding from the world. He keeps the windows shaded, hasn’t shaved or for who knows how long. We soon find out he’s is a wealthy philanthropist who owns a hospital he visits sometimes. Does Franny want to help people? Watching him in a tender interaction with one of the young patients, we begin to think so. And when he gets a call from Olivia (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of his late best friends, he perks up considerably at the chance to help her and Luke, her doctor husband (Theo James).


And so begins Franny’s overzealous efforts to relive the past he remembers with his dear friends, Olivia’s parents. Will this help assuage his guilt over the part he played in their demise? Is Franny too far gone with his drug addiction to act reasonably in assisting Olivia and Luke? Although Gere’s portrayal of Franny can be very annoying at times, it definitely works. We feel just as uncomfortable as Olivia and Luke while watching the outrageous behavior of Gere’s Franny as he tries to win them over with his grandiose plans.

Gere (Shall We Dance) displays a wide range of emotions as he sinks his teeth into this role. He’s just as convincing when Franny gets depressed as when his flamboyant side takes over. Fanning (The Last of Robin Hood) appears to be holding back here. But that’s the right approach for this pregnant young wife, who’s worried about her husband as he tries to deal with Franny’s obsession. James (Insurgent) makes an excellent addition to the cast. He’s especially effective in scenes with Gere when Luke decides to confront Franny about his problem.         

Although a couple of editing decisions interfere with the story’s flow, director Andrew Renzi (The Fort) gets things back on track quickly, and cinematographer Joe Anderson (Fishtail) highlights the beauty of changing leaves as well as various Philadelphia locations. You could do worse than spend an hour and a half with The Benefactor.

(Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films; not rated by MPAA.)

For more information about The Benefactor, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.      

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