It is an odd fact that one of the most daring and excellent films of the early 80s was a movie about two characters sitting down to dinner and having a full conversation with each other in real-time. The daring nature of My Dinner with Andre, of course, comes from the unabashed simplicity of its premise (as well as the far-ranging content of its writing), but that leaves the source of its excellence still to be accounted for.
Folks who have not seen it may hold the understandable-yet-mistaken notion that perhaps the film succeeds in the same way as other acclaimed single-location dialogue-driven movies, like The Man from Earth and 12 Angry Men—by having the characters slowly uncover or reveal shocking details over time. But the conversation in My Dinner with Andre is just not a traditional narrative; its conversation is rather more similar to, well, a conversation. One of the men, the eponymous Andre (played by André Gregory), shares some recent biography and some philosophical notions, and the other man, Wally (played by Wallace Shawn), responds to Andre’s ideas. That’s it. So, what is it then that makes this movie work so well? That makes it have consistently high ratings from critics and audiences alike? That made Siskel and Ebert each separately rank it as one of their top five films of the entire 1980s?