Andre’s not being rude so much as Wally genuinely wants to hear what he has to say. When it’s finally his turn to talk, Wally’s pointing a knife in Andre’s direction, a move I took as an allowance from the film that the viewer has come to the end of their patience with Andre’s stories. The minute I thought about my dislike of this pseudo-spiritual blowhard who’s been taken in by multiple woo-woo charlatans, Wally swooped in to validate my dislike. Where Andre saw the hand of fate or god or whatever in his travels, Wally sees mere coincidences. He wonders why Andre had to travel across the world for self-knowledge when it could credibly have been had here, with honest discussion. Wally’s no hero himself, a contented homebody in a tightly-constructed bubble who blames his lack of success on the dull audience, but he is the hero of the film by providing a counterweight to the ramblings of a man who was getting harder and harder to listen to.
As Andre and Wally go back and forth, the themes emerge and crystallize into the film’s perfect ending. Both men, ensconced in middle age, have begun to ask what the rest of their lives are going to look like as reinvention becomes less and less likely. Wally takes comfort in the creation and completion of lists, or a good cup of coffee in the morning, and is therefore resigning himself to the possibility that this is what his life will continue to be like. One completed daily list turns into a few thousand, so many little hits of dopamine on the way to the grave. Andre has experienced success that Wally hasn’t come anywhere close to, but it’s only made him restless and fatalistic despite his openness to mysticism. All these faux-execution rituals learned from Scottish druids might’ve momentarily felt like rebirth, but they eventually wore off and he’s just Andre again, in the same body that is getting weaker and weaker every day. Where meaning comes from for these two men, on diametrically opposed career paths but ultimately headed for the same place, becomes urgent and passionate, justifiably so as the answer will dictate their remaining decades.
A recent spate of post-COVID reunions with friends and family I haven’t seen in over a year was overhyped thanks to watching My Dinner With Andre. Maybe I’ve lost some my (considerable) charm during the pandemic or maybe we’re all getting older and more quotidian, but my intense desire to reconnect over deep, honest, and respectful conversation just didn’t happen. The final scenes of My Dinner With Andre are pure ecstasy, as touching and vibrant as anything. Andre or Wally might’ve said, in their own articulate ways, that life is hopping from one moment of joy to the next and hoping that the time in between moments isn’t too long. My Dinner With Andre ends with one of those moments and transmits it to the viewer. For my next moment, I’ll need smarter friends or better conversation skills or another film as great as this one. A