Movie Review – Arbitrage – Richard Gere Humanizes The One Percent

Nicholas Jareckis directorial debut takes an appealingly adult view of New Yorks elite, according to NPR critic Jeannette Catsoulis. Hedge fund manager Robert Miller (Richard Gere) struggles to maintain his composure when a tragic car accident threatens his gilded life.

Gere Humanizes A Steely 1-Percenter In Arbitrage

Robert Miller (Richard Gere) struggles to hide his financial indiscretions from his daughter (Brit Marling) inArbitrage.Myles Aronowitz/Roadside Attractionshide caption

Rated R for language, brief violent images and drug use

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

Anyone looking for a moral high ground or any high ground at all inArbitragewill be sorely disappointed. And thats only one of the reasons that Nicholas Jareckis family-and-finances drama, handsomely photographed by Yorick Le Saux, is so appealingly adult.

At a time when filmmakers might be under some pressure to punish the 1 Percent, Jarecki (who also wrote the script) chooses instead to remind us that making and keeping scads of cash is rarely accomplished by the fainthearted or the foolish.

Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is neither. A Manhattan investment whiz who amassed his billions through sweat and smarts, Robert has a loving, low-maintenance family and a volatile, high-maintenance French mistress (Laetitia Casta).

He also has a $400 million hole in his firms accounts that requires off-book plugging to finesse a critical audit linked to the pending sale of his company.

And theres more: a nervous creditor wants a loan repaid, his wife (an under-utilized Susan Sarandon) needs a check for one of her many charities (Its only $2 million!), and his daughter and CFO (Brit Marling) is sniffing around the cooked books. So much for the films first 10 minutes.

Unfolding in somber tones and among hard surfaces,Arbitragehas the slickness of new bank notes and the confidence of expensive tailoring. Even when a violent car accident causes Roberts troubles to multiply and the film to drift uneasily into thriller territory, Jarecki holds steady, keeping his pacing attuned to Geres silver-fox composure.

Its the kind of marvelously contained performance that made the actor so riveting inThe Mothman Propheciesand so potent as the betrayed husband inUnfaithful. Always at his best in the eye of the storm, Gere excels at characters who gain our sympathy precisely because it would never occur to them to ask for it.

Miller and his socialite wife (Susan Sarandon) keep up appearances by keeping active on the charity circuit.Myles Aronowitz/Roadside Attractionshide caption

Miller and his socialite wife (Susan Sarandon) keep up appearances by keeping active on the charity circuit.

Neither amoral nor cynical, Robert follows his own code: that of the boardroom and the clubhouse, of deals negotiated in the backs of limos and in sleek hotel rooms. When he tells his daughter, Im the patriarch, the term means something to him; the familial responsibilities and buck-stops-here ethic encoded in it are the reasons he takes care of business even if it means ignoring life-threatening injuries. And when he slides around the legal system (personified by Tim Roth as a desperately tenacious detective), its not bribes that grease his way, but goodwill earned from past kindnesses.

Robert may be entitled and ruthless, but its the police who stoop to falsifying evidence; he may be serially unfaithful, but its with his wifes tacit consent. The character is fascinating because Jarecki refuses to judge him (or to make it easy for us to do so), painting a complex personality whos used to the tightrope and doesnt fear the fall.

InArbitrage,as in life, wealth creates the rules and decides who gets to play the game. You think moneys gonna fix this? asks an alibi witness when Robert tries to give him a substantial gift. What else is there? Robert wonders, and its a testament both to the writing and the performance that his mystification appears painfully genuine.(Recommended)