On his 60th birthday, New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is the portrait of success in American business and family life. But behind the façade of success and wealth, Miller is desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the enormity of his fraud is revealed. Struggling to conceal his duplicity from loyal wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and brilliant daughter and heir-apparent Brooke (Brit Marling), Miller is also hiding an affair with French art-dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). Just as he's about to unload his troubled empire, an unexpected bloody error forces him to juggle family, business, and crime with the aid of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a man from Miller's past. When NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth), gets on the case, everyone has everything to lose.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In this post-GFC world, with the brilliant doco Inside Job (2010) and the equally gripping drama Margin Call (2011) behind us, the excesses of New York money moguls are still fair game for movie treatment. As with J. C. Chandor's Margin Call, the screenplay for Arbitrage is written by someone very close to the source material: the son of parents in the business. Perhaps that's why the film avoids crass stereotyping and gives us a more nuanced and complex set of characters.
Silver haired billionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is - at first glance - the archetypal money manipulator. But where writer/director Nicholas Jarecki succeeds is in sucking us in before opening Miller up and showing us that his moral guidelines are just as complicated and self contradictory as our own. If he's reprehensible for his financial scheming, he's admirable for his genuine desire to help others. Jarecki isn't writing about a genuine monster: Miller is a flawed man but he's not beyond redemption.
The pleasures in this film come from a strong story and the well drawn characters who surround Miller, from his wife Ellen - sensationally portrayed by Susan Sarandon - and his smart daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), to the breakout performance by Nate Parker as Jimmy, the son of a (black) man Miller once helped in a big way. Jimmy plays a huge role in the plot, and Parker is up to the task for every nail biting minute of it.
English actor Tim Roth gets his acting chops around NYPD Detective Michael Bryer in a performance that seems almost to channel Peter Falk's famed detective, Columbo, in terms of body language and attitude. But Roth is too fine an actor to copy anyone, and he gets under our skin as the relentless cop, his genuine motivation evident. He investigates the car accident that kills an art dealer - a woman connected to Miller - an incident which adds to Miller's enormous set of woes. We know what really happened - and we are complicit in the moral tangle.
Interestingly, we find ourselves in a dilemma, hoping Bryer will fail in his quest to bring out the truth - even though we know it's morally the wrong answer. Is this an intentional mind game the filmmaker is playing? Check it out for yourself.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its own set of rules and moral guidelines, the rich show they are different in this superb thriller in which honesty and dishonesty are bedfellows. From the outset, the casting of charismatic Richard Gere as the corporate magnate, alerts us to the fact that we, like those around his wheeling-dealing Robert Miller, are likely to be seduced by him. Initially, at least. First time writer and director Nicholas Jarecki has crafted a sophisticated film that grapples with many issues ranging from the superficial to the nitty gritty.
As we are drawn into the world of a high flyer complete with loving family, gorgeous mistress and all the trappings that money can buy, we watch how it can all unravel - like a ball of wool at the paws of a playful kitten. It's a great role for Gere, who together with an outstanding cast deliver a smashing tale in which greed, appearances and success are championed over guilt, redemption and truth.
In the establishing scene in which elegantly dressed Robert Miller (Gere) jets to his plush New York pad to join his family in celebration of his 60th birthday, he has the appearance of the man with everything. He flits past the glittering atrium light installation and original art works before blowing out the candles on the lavish cake, surrounded by his loving wife Ellen (Sarandon), children and grandchildren.
The contrast of the juxtaposition of the next scene, in which he hurries to his scrumptious mistress Julie (Casta) for a lusty seduction, could not be greater. The following scene in which we discover he is guilty of fraud - to the amount of over $400 million - almost completes the picture. One final disaster is yet to occur that puts 'the oracle' in dire straits and prompts him to call the vulnerable, good-hearted Jimmy (Parker) from Harlem. Parker delivers the film's most vulnerable and touching performance as the only character for whom money is insignificant. Miller's only emotionally honest moment comes when he meets Julie's mother - in difficult circumstances.
There are surprises, twists and turns and an edgy game of cat and mouse as Tim Roth's street-savvy, wonderfully low Detective Michael Bryer sets to the task of connecting Miller to the crime scene of a fatal accident.
The film's best scenes are those that reveal the relationships between the key players. There are the feisty exchanges between Miller and his mistress and those between Miller and his various associates and legal team. I like the scene in which he and his lawyer (Stuart Margolin), sitting side by side on a Central Park bench, speak of the hypothetic third person (but obviously Miller) and the scene in which Miller seals his all-important company sale with a businessman who is every bit as corrupt as he is.
A glass of 25 year old Macallan scotch does not always solve everything. The scene between Gere and Sarandon, when the truth of their marriage is laid bare (aptly, they are in the bedroom with nothing but their king size bed between them) is unforgettable, and the scene between Miller and his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling, excellent), the company's Chief Investment Manager nails the essence of what the film is trying to say.
Individually and collectively, each cast member is superb, building on the foundations of deceit, allowing us to breathe the air that filters to the head space of the rich and that truth is something that is only dished up when all other options have been explored.
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CAST: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, William Friedkin, Monica Raymund, Nate Parker, Evelina Oboza, Josh Pais
PRODUCER: Laura Bickford, Justin Nappi, Kevin Turen
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Jarecki
SCRIPT: Nicholas Jarecki
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yorick le Saux
EDITOR: Douglas Crise
MUSIC: Cliff Martinez
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Beth Mickle
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 27, 2012
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.