Thursday, September 20

REVIEW: Arbitrage

Directed by Nicholas Jarecki
1 hour 40 minutes
From Lionsgate & Roadside Attractions

Richard Gere
Susan Sarandon
Tim Roth
Brit Marley
Nate Parker
Stuart Margolin

Look, I liked it, ok?  I did.  But I see things written about this movie as though this is the apex of film-making and I'd be wasting my time wanting to see any future films.  Nonsense.  It was all that hype that drew me to it in the first place and I think I was hoodwinked.  It's not that good.  The notion that it's called a thriller by some escapes me as well.  Shouldn't that imply I was on the edge of my seat, either literally or figuratively?  Does it sound like I was?

Edging away from my reaction to the hype of the movie and focusing on the plot of the film, let's say it is about a hedge fund mastermind, consumed with power, filthy rich, who is in trouble in his business with regards to fraud and in trouble with his wife and daughter (also a business associate) and there's this little matter with his mistress.  It looks like he's not playing it straight with a man who has helped him in his mess with the mistress and a wily cop keeps showing up to interrogate him.

There you go.  Does it sound like something you've never seen before on the big screen?  Huh?  You know you've seen dozens of movies that sound exactly like this... and that's my bloody point.  Been there, done that.

Somebody likely thought of Richard Gere because he's done this type of role countless times.  I think that's why producers should not think of Richard Gere.  Not that he's not good at his job, but I guess stretching a bit more late in his career is not a possibility.  Hmmm.  This character is one who, of course, leads a slimy double life.  I have to hand it to Gere.  In his face I have long seen someone who looks like he's up to no good.  He would be a terrible spy because he looks like a spy. 

So hey, I am on to why they want him... it's a good fit.  But I would just think he might like to try something different.  How about another musical or comedy?  Please, though, don't call Julia.  And if this point is lost on him or you, then I just have to stand up for myself and say I need surprises from actors to keep my interest high.  I like Gere, always have, but he's in a rut here, not the revelation critics are espousing.

Frankly, the same could be said about Susan Sarandon... both on the up and down sides.  She is a marvelous actress and while she does pull off some surprises, certainly more than Gere, none were in evidence here.  She does so many wife roles, supportive in some and a bit invalidating in others, but she's done this rich wife thing too often.  Aren't there some good women's roles out there a little more challenging than playing someone's wife?  There's much more to this delicious actress than she has signed up for lately.

Once said about both Sarandon and Gere, I do like watching them act together.  They did it before in 2004's Shall We Dance.  They have an undeniable chemistry.

Likewise, Tim Roth, another actor I have long admired, who could have phoned in his performance.  As the character, a mostly good cop, he was what he was supposed to be.  I bought it.  But the actor simply relied on all the items in his large trunk of tricks and I wanted more.

The best jobs were done by the young folk.  The screen lit up when Nate Parker was on it.  As the son of a man who Gere once helped, Parker is doing payback and gets in over his head.  He was understated and strong in a role that could have been crushed under the weight of a rich and powerful man.

Brava to Brit Marling, playing the daughter, who adores her father and is demolished by his perceived treachery.  When one's knight falls off the white charger, it does give one pause.  Marling paused very well.

The film has a wonderful look.  Congrats to all the technicians on board with the camerawork, sets, art design, props.  After those dirty boys I so enjoyed in Lawless and the trashy types from Killer Joe, how yummy it was to be back in a multi-million dollar Manhattan apartment with closets full of tuxedos and evening gowns and china, silver and linen napkins on the extra long dining room table and the limo and driver on call.  To quote a line from The Sound of Music... I love rich people, I love how they live, I love how I live when I'm with them.

Nicholas Jarecki is a first-time director (of a theatrical film) and he also scribbled the screenplay.  In these cases I often say they have bitten off too much of the creative stick.  Any director has his hands full and that must be a bit daunting for a first-timer.  And with all the craziness going on, how can the director be truly objective about the writing when he wrote it?  If it seemed like it worked when the words were written, wonder if they don't play out quite right when the cameras are rolling.  It is a director's job to see that it's not working when it's not and can he be objective enough?  I suspect often the answer is no.

When there are no real surprises from the two leads and the screenplay is no great shakes, it could mean one star from me but the upbeat things I have discussed gets this two stars.  Those moviegoers looking for guns and car chases and daring stunt work are going to be disappointed.  I wasn't disappointed, but I'm just sayin'.  This is for the thinking man or woman but I wish there had been something special offered.

This was the first film I have ever paid for on my On Demand.  It was on under some banner that it is also in theaters.  It was nice to see it at home.  

Only vaguely aware of what arbitrage meant, I looked it up.  It says here it is a kind of hedged investment, meant to capture slight differences in a price... and when there is a difference in the price of something on two different markets, the arbigrateur (I'm thinking Easter Parade-- lol) simultaneously buys at the lower price and sells at the higher price.  Oh whatever...

NEXT POSTING:  Favorite Film #27


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