By Gary Murray

Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Nate Parker and Laetitia Casta

Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki

Running time 100 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Cable


Richard Gere is one of the most successful leading men in Hollywood.  Some of his greatest cinematic hits have been the movies Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman, Breathless, American Gigolo and Chicago.  His latest to try and win an Oscar is Arbitrage.

The tale of the film takes place in the world of the 1%.  Hedge-fund tycoon Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is working on the deal of his lifetime as he approaches his 60th birthday.  He is the symbol of success, with million dollar banquets thrown in his honor.  His wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) is more worried about her standing in the elite community than the world of business. 

Daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) helps to run the company. She takes after her father in being ruthless in business.  Unknown to her, the corporation is steps away from becoming insolvent.  Robert had done a deal and leveraged his position to a degree that he has lost millions.  Dad does his best to hide it from his daughter to the point of having two sets of books.  This is the first big secret of Arbitrage.

The second big secret in Robert’s life is that he has a mistress in French artist Julie Cote (Laetitia Casta).  He keeps her in a high rent apartment and attends her shows, buying very expensive works of her art. In Robert’s state of mid-life crisis, he wants to make the company solvent by acquisition, leave his wife and be with his mistress. 

One night, Robert and Julie get into a major car accident, killing the woman.  Robert, in a panic, calls Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker) the son of his former driver.  The two men have a past and Jimmy comes to the aide of his benefactor, giving him a ride.  Jimmy has had some run-ins with the law but is trying to get his life straight.

The police begin to investigate the death and NYPD detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) believes that there is something more than meets the eye.  He connects Jimmy and Richard but cannot prove anything, yet.  It is his investigation and the unwinding of different plot threads that propel the story of Arbitrage.

The film is structured like a Shakespearian tragedy but without the tragic all-encompassing outcome.  Our major character doesn’t have the total fall from grace, the final collapse of his world.  In this world, the 1% just loses money, not everything.

In the basic plot ideas that define tragedy, the lead is to have a total fall from grace and everyone is to suffer because of the flaws of the central figure.  Basically everyone in Hamlet and Macbeth die.  That does not happen in Arbitrage.  It does not follow the most basic rule of literature.  Writer/director Nicholas Jarecki sets up his grand tragic story but never delivers the true death punch to the proceedings.  In his backing off he makes the entire film a weak exercise in tragedy.

If one is to see this film, it is for the cast.  Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon both are journeymen performers who are at the top of their game in Arbitrage.  The banter between these two makes the rest of the work palatable.  As an old married couple, the two make a believable pair.  There should have been more scenes between them and less with the secondary stories.

Brit Marling has had some art-house successes in the last year but seems lost in this role.  Her character almost feels as if it is an afterthought, a secondary thread in the process.  She is never proactive in her situation, more of a victim of circumstance than a controller of destiny.  The part is ill conceived and poorly executed.    

And how many times can Tim Roth play the same cop role?

I find Arbitrage to be a very long shot for any post year awards.  The end product feels hollow and never rings true in terms of style and substance.  It thinks that it is grand tragedy but comes across as milquetoast drama. 


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