REVIEW: Arbitrage Starring Richard Gere, Tim Roth. Directed by Nicholas Jarecki. M. 3.5 stars
While no Gordon Gekko, he's a Wall Street American gigolo.
Money supposedly can't buy happiness but the anti-hero's underlying attitude in the thriller Arbitrage is that money can buy everything else.
The drama - whose title is a financial wheeling-dealing term - focuses on 60-year-old hedge fund magnate and billionaire Robert Miller, whose company could go belly up after a surefire, big money-making investment unexpectedly went bad.
Miller borrowed $412 million to fraudulently cook his company's books until he could sell the company to a major bank. But the lender wants his money back now and the bank is stalling any merger in hope of lowering the buying price.
When a desperate, over-tired Miller is involved in a fatal accident, he becomes the target of a police investigation and needs a coverup to prevent any chance he has of closing the deal, and saving his bacon, from being ruined.
Arbitrage is writer-director Nicholas Jarecki's debut film and he keeps his slick story engaging enough, despite financial jargon, and ratchets up the tension as a besieged Miller fights to survive. Only the ending, while satisfactory, feels too neatly and fortuitously resolved. Unfortunately, enjoyment of the film was hampered by its poor visual quality in the State Cinema's Cinema 7.
The film's chief strength is Richard Gere's lead performance. An actor who doesn't exactly exude warmth, he can be sleekly seductive and coolly charming. His Miller is ostensibly a respected businessman, family man, philanthropist and humanitarian, but behind the facade he's an arrogant patriarch, a philanderer and a duplicitous, morally bankrupt alpha male. While no Gordon Gekko, he's a Wall Street American gigolo.
In his hubris he believes everything can be bought. Arbitrage tells whether he is right, or even the rich must pay for their crimes and misdemeanours. Moviegoers might find themselves vacillating between wanting to see Miller find a way out of his predicament, or see this fat cat get his come-uppance and just desserts.
A Columbo-style detective, effectively played by Tim Roth, prompts a similar wavering. He's tired of the rich avoiding punishment and is desperate to nail Miller however he can. Public antipathy towards the one per centers might bolster hopes he succeeds, even if that means breaking the law himself.
Also commendable in supporting roles are Susan Sarandon as Miller's wife, Brit Marling as his daughter and chief investment officer and heir, Laetitia Casta as his French mistress, and Nate Parker as a young Harlem man Miller turns to for help. As a story about power, greed and self-survival, Arbitrage provides a good argument for having a warm coat in life in order to cope with a cold world.
Safety Not Guaranteed Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. M. ★★★★
It sounds quirky, if not goofy - magazine journalists investigate a time-travel classified ad - but the comedy Safety Not Guaranteed becomes a touching, funny tale about belief as wish fulfilment, in this case to recapture the past to amend regretted occurrences. Journo jerk Jeff (Jake Johnson) takes along two interns to check out who's behind a Seattle newspaper ad that wants "Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke . . . Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before."
Cocky, callous, cynical Jeff sees the assignment as a chance to do a bit of time-travelling of his own - to reconnect with an old girlfriend. He leaves intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza in a breakout performance) - a sullen, disillusioned and disconnected young woman still upset by her mother's death - to do the legwork and interviewing.
Darius meets Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the man behind the ad, and pretends to be a time-travel believer to win his trust, discovering that he is highly serious and very paranoid about government agents pursuing him.
Darius' relationship with Kenneth gets complicated when she begins to make an emotional connection, based on an empathetic sadness and guilt in their lives. Inspired by a 1997 classified ad, this charming, low-budget, indie film, from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine and first-time director Colin Trevorrow, is both whimsical and wistful, heartfelt and humorous, as it blends its sci-fi and rom-com elements. Besides posing an interesting query (to when would you go back and why?), Derek Connolly's screenplay raises questions of whether Kenneth is nuts, a sincere weirdo or the real deal, how will vulnerable Darius and Kenneth be affected if and when her real reason for befriending him is revealed, and just who are those two men in trenchcoats following them?
Enjoy finding out the answers.
- © Fairfax NZ News