By Laurie Coker

Rating: C+/B-

When I first heard the title of Richard Gere’s new film Arbitrage, I had no clue as to exactly to what it alluded. I am a teacher, after all, and we are not known as high rollers in the financial world. In brief, the term refers to the simultaneous buying and selling of the same thing (a company for example) in an effort to make big money. I am sure this is all awfully interesting to those involved in such dealings, but as it is played out in director/writer Nicholas Jarecki’s film, my interest surged and fell and rose again, much like the stock market on any given day.

Gere plays hedge-fund magnate, Robert Miller, who balances on the brink of a huge make or break deal, one that if it fails, will lead others to discover mishandled moneys within his company. Desperate to keep his improprieties hidden, including a mistress, Miller manipulates as many people as he can, working to stay poised though it all.  Then a shocking accident brings his world chillingly closer to personal and financial disaster.  

Arbitrage certainly offers Gere a vehicle to show off his assets – he does distinguished, deep, dapper and determined well. None of Gere’s sex appeal has faded with age and he does carry this film nicely on his still impressive shoulders. When we are close up and personal with him, all is right with the film, in spite of plot foibles. Susan Sarandon stars as Ellen, Robert’s wife and does so with several layers of character profundity. Robert and Ellen’s relationship mirrors many we’ve seen before, but with Sarandon and Gere there is a tangible depth of passion and richness in their interaction. This doesn’t mean we haven’t seen it before; just that it’s a pleasure watching this coupling.

Jarecki’s story does have its surprises, like the aforementioned accident and a strong cast, including Brit Marling, as Robert’s beautiful enterprising daughter and the chief financial officer of his company. A subplot involving a young black man named Jimmy (Nate Parker), Robert’s only real (not sanctimonious or self-involved) friend, perhaps is the film’s most interesting aspect (beyond that of Robert and Ellen). It branches from Robert’s affair with a pouty French artist (Laetitia Casta) and stirs an already simmering pot of deceit. With this Jarecki manages to add enough suspense to capture curiosity, even when the film plays out unsurprisingly at times.

Marking his first narrative effort, Jarecki’s plot plods along far too predictably and is riddled with holes. On another note, Jarecki (and recently many other directors) uses far too many extremely close up camera shots. I’m sure they are meant to add some sort of intrigue, but I find little interesting about close ups of inanimate objects, people’s pores or cream swirling in a cup of coffee. In a film like Barton Fink, the Coen brothers master the art of capturing necessary and moving detail though the camera’s eye; this is not the case with Arbitrage.

The more difficult reviews to write are the ones for films like Arbitrage, rated R, because much of it did captivate me, but not enough to walk away wholly satisfied. For a first effort at narration, Jarecki does fairly well, but little is notably memorable. I am placing a C+/B- in my grade book. 


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