Monday, 24 September 2012

Arbitrage, dir/wr. Nicholas Jarecki, st. Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling

Given that when morality comes up against profit, it is seldom profit that loses, what is billionaire hedge-fund manager Robert Miller to do when a freak car accident leaves his mistress dead and himself spiralling ever inwardly towards absolute implication? To make matters worse, his company's book-cooking has just been unearthed by its CEO, who also happens to be his daughter Brooke, played by Brit Marling. Much has been made of this being Gere's 'career-best' performance and it's honestly hard to disagree. His dynamic range in this film, bookended by his trademark carte-blanche smile at one end, and narrowing of the eyes and furrowing of the brows at the other, is given something of makeover, and for once, maybe, we believe slightly more than we ever dared we would in a Richard Gere picture. This may be in part due to Jarecki's sinewy snaky Sorkined script that casually toys with issues of familial loyalty versus unscrupulous business acumen, and gives Gere's Miller real cause and distress. Marling too gives Brooke restrained depth and feeling, never overstating beyond-her-years astuteness or understating youthful naivety; when she discovers her Father's dodgy financial manoeuvrings, Miller counters, in a beautiful little scene, with a speech about how her age denies her of true perspective. It's a clever moment that asks us to consider an argument that purports absolute morality can disintegrate with maturity. Marling here is as mesmerisingly watchable as in her previous self-penned projects, the Sundance-acclaimed Another Earth and The Sound Of My Voice. Similarly Sarandon, as Miller's acquiescent wife Ellen, is the closest link we as an audience have to any of the film's characters as she observes and ruminates in the background, all-seeing, cogs turning. There's so much meat on the bones of the nature of corruption, that the investigative story featuring Tim Roth as the detective hot on Miller's back ends up being the least interesting narrative thread on offer, but regardless, Arbitrage makes for solemn, compelling viewing.