Morally corrupt Wall Street types are nothing new for film goers. Not new on the big screen or in real life. They have dominated the news about the financial problems in the United States. Most blame them and their underhanded ways for causing the collapse. These men (they are for the most part men) have been demonized and hated for years now in that the common man suffered while they made off in most instances scot free and even richer. Director/screenwriter Nicholas Jarecki (The Outsider) funnels that hatred towards he handsome yet swarmy lead character, Robert Miller (Richard Gere – Pretty Woman, Primal Fear). While it is manipulation we are so willing to be led down that path that we willingly go.
Arbitrage is not the type of film that teaches us anything. I think anyone who had half an eye on the news over the past five years would have learned about many people like Robert Miller. Men who risked the life savings of people who could not afford to lose their money. These men, like Miller says himself in the film, think they are gods and can’t ever fathom losing or coming out on the wrong side of deals. Well, Miller does and still tries to cover his butt.On the eve of his 60th birthday, über successful hedge fund manager Robert Miller is flying back from a meeting. It wasn’t just any meeting as it was one which he was under the impression that he would be successful in selling his company to a man named James Mayfield (Graydon Carter – editor of Vanity Fair). It wasn’t and Mayfield wasn’t even there. Miller is frustrated.
We learn that the frustration is due to the fact that he has lost over $400 million of his investors’ money in a bad copper mine venture in Russia. He has covered that up by borrowing $412 million from his friend Jeffrey Greenberg (Larry Pine – Dead Man Walking, The Shipping News). Well, his time is up and Greenberg wants his money back and is willing to just take it back. This does not suit Miller’s purposes because before his company can be sold it must undergo an audit and despite the fact that he seems to have the auditor Chris Vogler (Bruce Altman – Glengarry Glen Ross, The Matchstick Men) under his thumb there is only so much he can cover up. If the missing money is uncovered then Miller will be broke and go to jail.
On top of this financial stress there is also stress in his personal life. Despite the fact that it seems like Robert is happily married to his wife, Ellen (Susan Sarandon – Thelma and Louise, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), he is having an affair. The woman (Laetitia Casta – Gainsbourg, War of the Buttons) is a much younger French art seller and she wants more of Robert’s time than he can devote to her. Stressed and being pulled in many different directions we can’t really fault Robert when he asks his young lover to just hop in the car with him and run away to his place upstate.
It is on the trip that Miller’s life becomes even more complicated than before. Now he has a determined police detective (Tim Roth – Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) on his tail and even his financial problems become more trepidatious when his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling – Sound of My Voice, Another Earth), who works for him, begins noticing some oddities with the company’s books. Robert has gone from the frying pan and into a fire in which even he might not be able to maneuver his way out of.
Richard Gere has his limitations as an actor. I am admittedly not his biggest fan. He is, however, right in his wheelhouse with this character. You can totally understand watching his blue eyes dance and his smile twinkle how he gets away with the things he has done. It would be hard to say no to this guy. Plus he is incredibly intelligent. Maybe too much so for his own good. Gere has a great onscreen partner in Susan Sarandon. The scene towards the end of the film between Ellen and Robert crackles with electricity. The two go head to head and we come out the victors.
Rookie director Nicholas Jarecki also does a decent job. In creating what becomes a thriller he continuously ramps up the tension as the film goes on. Throwing in a seemingly endless number of things Robert has to battle against or make go away. Though I would like to discuss with Jarecki the plausibility of some of the twists in the latter part of the film. Overall, he is successful in creating the atmosphere of a thriller and making us hate a man who seems to have everything going for him until his world begins to crumble underneath him.
-A Glimpse Into Arbitrage
-Who is Robert Miller