Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, and Brit Marling lead the cast of “Arbitrage.” SIDEWALKS’ Jeanne Powell has her take.
Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
Written by: Nicholas Jarecki
Produced by: Laura Bickford, Kevin Turen, Justin Nappi, and Robert Salerno
Executive Produced by: Brian Young, Mohammed Al Turki, Lisa Wilson, Stanislaw Tyczynski, Lauren Versel, Maria Teresa Areda and Ron Curtis
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, and Nate Parker
RBITRAGE, the feature directorial debut of writer Nicholas Jarecki, is a taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. When we first meet New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) on the eve of his 60th birthday, he appears the very portrait of success in American business and family life. But behind the gilded walls of his mansion, Miller is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. Struggling to conceal his duplicity from loyal wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and brilliant daughter and heir-apparent Brooke (Brit Marling), Miller’s also balancing an affair with French art-dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). Just as he’s about to unload his troubled empire, an unexpected bloody error forces him to juggle family, business, and crime with the aid of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a face from Miller’s past. One wrong turn ignites the suspicions of NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth), who will stop at nothing in his pursuits. Running on borrowed time, Miller is forced to confront the limits of even his own moral duplicity. Will he make it out before the bubble bursts?
For billionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere), life is working well. Every time he enters a room, he is reminded of how good power feels – in his palatial home, in his corporate office, inside the best restaurants in town. Just a few loose ends to tie up – a demanding mistress, a wife who drinks, a little problem with Russian copper mining, a balky corporate buyer, and a naïve daughter who wears white even though she works in the world of arbitrage and works for him.
Arbitrage is the simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, in different markets, to profit from unequal prices. Almost too late Miller discovers there is a thin line between getting rich and getting caught. The question for Miller is not whether power is the best alibi, but whether it is the only alibi when you’re in deep.
First time film director Nicholas Jarecki keeps us on the edge of our seats as we watch Robert Miller balance, negotiate, plead and bully his way out of a world-class jam on multiple levels. In perhaps his best performance to date, Gere really gets inside his character during a crucial few days in the life of this hedge fund powerhouse.
Susan Sarandon is Ellen Miller, the well-kept, pampered wife, mother of two, very comfortable with her existence. How much does she know, and how much will she overlook? After all, she has the jewels, the clothes, the address, the charities, the status. Has a tipping point been reached? How will she react? She faults her husband for his women; he reminds her quickly about her drinking, her profligate spending and the number of personal trainers she has had in her life.
Equally fascinating is Tim Roth as Detective Michael Bryer. Why has he been called to the scene of an automobile accident when he’s a murder cop? Watching him discover which parts of the scene don’t fit and how to uncover the missing details is intriguing. In demeanor and choice of clothing, he could not be more different from Miller, but their worlds do collide.
Nate Parker plays Jimmy Grant, the son of Miller’s late long-time chauffeur. Miller (Gere) is loyal to his employees and has treated Jimmy well but their worlds do not intersect. So what’s with the 3:00 a.m. collect phone call to Grant’s residence? “What, you get in trouble, you call the only Black person you know?”
Especially painful is the predicament of Grant. How much does he owe this man who calls him out of the blue? What about his own life, his own plans? Will he break under pressure from the District Attorney and the relentless detective, who reminds one of the police official in Les Miserables? Grant tells Miller that he has been saving money and is going to buy an Applebee’s. Billionaire Miller asks, “What’s an Applebee’s?” Their worlds are separate indeed.
Brit Marling is Brooke Miller, the daughter who follows in her father’s professional footsteps and the darling of her mother. Miller is proud of her professional competence as a securities broker and partner in the firm, but his wife wants to protect her daughter. Brooke is wearing a lovely designer ensemble all in white, when she starts to find out what her father really does for a living — right around the time of the fateful automobile accident and also the moment Miller is trying to sell his company before everything falls apart. A collision here is inevitable, and will be bloody.
Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, is cast as the elusive James Mayfield, whose approval is crucial for the sale of Richard Miller’s company. Despite the drama, turns out it’s just business; Miller grins in the middle of the heated negotiations because he realizes Mayfield just wants the purchase price to be a little lower.
Watching Gere try to keep it all together, witnessing Sarandon’s growing awareness that her perfect life is a fabric with too many holes, experiencing the frustration of Tim Roth as Detective Bryer when the law doesn’t work the way it should so he tries to bend it just a little, keeps you in the mix until the very end of the film.
Director and screenwriter Nicholas Jarecki allows his lead character to be fully developed, far beyond the “greed is good” mentality of the Michael Douglas film. And Richard Gere gives us memorable moments as we wait for the train wreck that his film character is determined to avoid, no matter what the cost to others.