Film: Arbitrage (2012)
Cast includes: Richard Gere (Pretty Woman), Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise), Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction), Brit Marling (Another Earth), Laetitia Casta (Gainsborough: A Heroic Life), Nate Parker (Red Tails)
Writer/Director: Nicholas Jarecki (The Informers)
Genre: Thriller | Drama (100 minutes)
An interview on CNBC is no big deal for Robert Miller. Nor is the cover story in Forbes magazine. What is a big deal is flying 2,000 miles for a meeting that doesn't end up with the signature on the contract. But Robert does a good job of hiding the anxiety when he gets home to his "surprise" birthday party. The grandchildren help him blow out the candles, and his son makes an announcement that they've sold the company to Standard. (As it turns out, the announcement is premature because Robert didn't actually get that signature.) Robert says he wants to spend time with his family. "I'm trying to imagine what we'll do," his daughter wonders. After the party, Robert has to go into the office. "I'll be back as soon as he can," he tells his lovely wife, Ellen. But Robert's taxi lets him out in SoHo. We soon realize Robert's mistress, Julie, is not pleased that he's kept her waiting so long. Robert really does burn the candle at both ends.
The next morning, we learn that Robert's more than a month late repaying a two-week loan of $412 million -- money that was needed to dress up the books prior to the sale. Robert's having a hard time following his own mantra, "Confidence equals contract." "After it's signed, let's go on an adventure," says Ellen, hoping to revitalize their marriage. "By the way, when are you going to write the $2 million check for the gala?" Robert's like a juggler, losing control of the balls. That evening, Standard blows off their dinner meeting. That makes Robert late for Julie's gallery opening, and there's really not enough cocaine in the world to smooth over her anger. Maybe a late-night drive with Julie will give him a chance to mend fences. But things go from bad to worse. Robert has to call for help, so he chooses someone he believes will never be connected to him.
Involuntary manslaughter shouldn't be taken lightly. Robert's lawyer points out, "There are about 50 things a person wouldn't have thought of." In fact, it doesn't take long before Detective Bryer has focused in on Robert. Robert believes, as he usually does, that money can smooth over all the inconsistencies. Even though Robert is the central character in this thriller, we really don't like him very much. We're conflicted about what we want to happen, and that colors our feelings about the movie. Richard Gere is excellent, as are the other actors. It's a good-looking film that has all the right ingredients, except there isn't a reason to feel satisfied about how it turns out. (There's not supposed to be.) About asset bubbles, Robert says, "When reality sets in there's a burst." Ditto. Trust bubbles and morality bubbles.
3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Taking chances has helped Robert build a financial empire, but now it's all crashing in
Rated: R (Crime)
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: Zips right along
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment & thought provoking
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