Arbitrage: Review

Arbitrage takes on a righteous high ground that isn’t faithful to the steely and hard-fought conviction that Richard Gere brings to his role.

Written by Shalini Langer | New Delhi | Published:September 14, 2012 6:14 pm

Cast: Richard Gere,Susan Sarandon,Tim Roth,Brit Marling

Directed: Nicholas Jarecki

Indian Express Rating:***1/2

RICHARD Gere does the high-flying corporate look proud and for most of its time,Arbitrage really belongs with him there. A film about the growing desperation of a high-flyer done in by changing times and the need to keep up appearances,about the book juggling that sustains the media buzz,about the dinner meetings and lawyer deals that keep him afloat,and about the untouchability that comes with money.

However,as it nears the end,perhaps eager to prove its heart lies in the right place and not with the big,bad greedy corporates,Arbitrage takes on a righteous high ground that isn’t faithful to the steely and hard-fought conviction that Richard Gere brings to his role.

He is Robert Miller,a hedge fund manager who repeatedly refers to himself proudly as the “oracle”. He has become legendary as legendaries go in a celebrity-driven media for making some fairly prescient bets on losing causes. However,all is not well. He is broke and about to be exposed unless a merger he is pressing for goes ahead. The other party is taking its time making up its mind,which Miller can ill afford.

Just as things couldn’t be more wrong professionally,on the personal front,he is having a fling with a new French artist who has been throwing tantrums about him not spending enough time with her. Miller,who is married to a loving wife (Sarandon) and has two grown-up children working in his firm,suggests a getaway. Given the upcoming merger and what is at stake,that’s a big risk by Miller. However,Miller and his mistress Julie have an accident on the way and she dies on the spot.

Miller realises that if the news gets out,it isn’t just his family that would be destroyed but the merger he has been working on. And so begins an elaborate cover-up,starting with “Jimmy” whom he calls for help. Jimmy is the son of the black driver who had served Miller faithfully till the end.

In the way the police build up their case,despite the loyal Jimmy,Arbitrage is almost a clever crime saga. Pressure is built on Jimmy underlining that Miller had “turned to the only n…..r he knew” to take the risk of helping him as he was “disposable”. However,Jimmy refuses to snitch on Miller in the face of even imprisonment and when asked about this,Miller has a simple explanation: “He is not like us.”

If that line gives away that Miller realises who he really is,there is another he offers to his daughter (Marling) outraged at the cooking of books in the company. Being the chief investment officer,she would be held as liable as him should the fraud be exposed. “I am a patriarch,” Miller tells his daughter. “I have chosen my way. You are either with me or against me.”

The daughter’s surprise at this declaration is as incongruous as how this relationship goes from there. Gere gives a commanding performance,as the handsome star everyone is willing to believe in who is himself as sure of the moral ambiguities of the world he lives in as the thin ground he treads on. He is absolutely convinced,for example,that what he is doing is for the “good of the family” and that the “charities” he donates are his way of making peace with what he does with the rest of his money.

If only debutant feature director Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage was as crystal clear about what it wanted,or didn’t. Appearances matter in success,Miller says,you have to project a picture of sales for sales to come your way. The last bit in Arbitrage seems all about that — appearances. At a time when big money is a dirty word,Arbitrage can’t help but take potshots at how it gets away with the big crimes. However,even as big money appears in all its warts,the potshot here shows up for what it is – a potshot.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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