It’s a damning surprise that the American Academy Awards have completely
turned their noses from disregarded Richard Gere’s name on the Best Actor race. Amongst the Day-Lewises, Phoenixes, Jackmans, Coopers and Washingtons, it’s safe to say that Gere has delivered an equally fine act (if not even better than the latter three). It’s a tempestuous, barnstorming performance, made even more compelling when Gere’s character Robert Miller is far from a straight-laced Manichean hero and instead depicted as a manipulative, cold-hearted liar-cum-bastard with a Machiavellian complex, a high-flying New York tycoon who bamboozle hedge funds one minute and deceives family, colleagues and wife the next. He’s an utterly despicable central character, an anti-hero for the ages, with Arbitrage chronicling Miller’s juggling act of his double-life – first as a charming and seemingly affable family man and secondly as Scum of the Earth.
And never has a film utilised Gere’s 63-year old wrinkles to extraordinary use, starting from a luxuriously smooth façade that slowly and painstakingly reveals weariness, exhaustion and deep cracks in his face throughout the film as Miller tries to wriggle himself out of the many holes he’s built for himself. His daughter (a rather good Brit Marling), the beautiful but oblivious acting-CFO of his father’s company) discovers fraudulent numbers in the firm’s account merger, and all the while Miller tries to scurry away from a car accident that left his mistress dead on a roadside, only fuelling more shit to the maelstrom of deception.
Jarecki eschews plenty of preachifying (a lot of that happens in the slightly similar financial crisis drama Margin Call) and rather endows his script with an intensely focussed character study of what happens when one has far too much power, control and money concentrated on a pair of hands. Disturbingly, Miller’s attempt to rectify any self-inflicted malaise is, of course, absent. He completely does the opposite – escalate more lies as naturally as breathing, and manipulate to the max. The moment in which we see the daughter confronts his father in Central Park in a heated argument, and followed with bitter spat with sophisticated wife (a terrific Susan Sarandon), Miller has reached a point of no return. This is a man we’ve all heard of, working in their pristine power-suits on the top of the financial chains, spinning a greed machine day and night, completely detached from reality and devoid of any principle but money and power.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: Nicholas Jarecki | CAST: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth | SCREENPLAY: Nicholas Jarecki | PRODUCER: Green Room Films/Treehouse Pictures | RUNNING-TIME: 107 mins | GENRE: Drama | COUNTRY: USA