Sunday, October 7, 2012

Movie Review: "Arbitrage"

Are the rich different? Arbitrage, a terrific new movie from writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, strives to answer that question.

Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a renowned hedge fund magnate who is desperate to close the sale of his financial empire. So desperate, in fact, that he has convinced an old friend to lend his company more than $400 million so that they can get a clean bill of health from the auditors and the sale can go through before his ruse is discovered.

His family, including his wife, Ellen (Susan Sarandon), who runs the family foundation, and his children, including his brilliant daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling), who is following in his footsteps, serving as the company's chief investment officer, have varied feelings about his eagerness to sell the company. And as the deal can never quite seem to be closed, Miller's nervousness grows.

Miller also has a mistress, gallery owner Julie Cote (Laetitia Casta), in whom he has invested a great deal of money. Julie is becoming increasingly unhappy about playing second fiddle in Robert's life (third, if you count his business), and in an effort to placate her, Robert invites her on a weekend in upstate New York.

On a late night car ride, things go very, very wrong, and Robert is forced to make a split-second decision that will have major ramifications in his life. He calls Jimmy (Nate Parker), the son of a former employee and friend, for help, another decision that is far more complex that it seems on the surface. And when dogged police detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) gets Miller in his sights, he isn't willing to let Miller slip through his fingers, no matter what.

Gere turns in a fantastic performance in this movie. At times powerful, at times nearly brought to his knees by the situations unfolding around him, he plays a man desperate to keep control of everything in his life, even as it spins more and more out of control. His surface placidity only serves to magnify the passions, fear, and desperate duplicity even more. This is a man willing to stop at nothing to get what he wants—how else did he get where he is? That the movie never apologizes for his behavior is one of the things that really rang true for me. I really would love to see Gere get his first-ever Oscar nomination for this film.

Sarandon looks terrific and is tremendously powerful in the few real scenes she has. Marling conveys both strength and vulnerability in her role as a daddy's girl who finally discovers just what Daddy is up to. And Nate Parker, as the unwitting pawn in Miller's actions, draws you into the conflicts his character is suffering from.

It is to Gere's credit—and, of course, Jarecki's—that you honestly don't know who to root for in this movie. Arbitrage is a quietly thoughtful and powerful film that will definitely make you think; it might make you angry, it might make you sad, but it definitely makes you wonder just how differently the rich do have it.

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