Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Richard Gere gives his best shot in Nicholas Jarecki's smart and slippery ARBITRAGE

Forget the pompous pretensions of Cosmopolis. If you can stand to view only one movie this year about yet another sleazy Wall Street wheeler/dealer, make it the slick, smart melodrama, ARBITRAGE. Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki in a tight, straight-forward fashion that serves his story well, this film pretty much cinches the Jarecki clan's standing among the most illustrious of today's movie-makers.

Brother Eugene Jarecki gave us one of the most important of modern documentaries, Why We Fight, while other brother Andrew Jarecki offered the uber-divisive doc Capturing the Friedmans and followed it up with the dark narrative film, All Good Things. This is one talented family, and young Nicholas, shown at left, proves no piker in the mix.

What makes this film works so extraordinarily well is the enormous amount of tension created by Mr. Jarecki (the filmmaker is shown at left) via his straight-ahead tech-nique that makes use of numerous quick, deft strokes involving incident and character, coupled to the terrific performance given by Richard Gere (on poster, top, and below), in the leading role of a super-successful hedge-fund magnate named Robert Miller.

This tension is palpable and it merely increases in larger and larger increments as the movie progresses, becoming a kind of suspense thriller, one that is quite literally as suspenseful and thrilling as any movie this year -- for those of us, at least, who can get our thrills from things other than throat slashings and car chases.

What is particularly remarkable about this movie is how cleverly Gere and Jarecki woo us into somehow rooting for Robert Miller, despite the fact that we know he's a crook, a sleazebag, a womanizer (that's his mistress, played by the French/Corsican actress Laetitia Casta, above) and probably a major despoiler, too. It's clear that Miller's entire world is collapsing around him; even so, he remains smart, attuned and ever-ready to make the necessary decision -- and pounce.

Gere is by now such a seasoned actor that he knows never to beg for sympathy. Yet because the filmmaker and his star place us so far inside this man's mind and feelings, we understand and appreciate his now-tenuous hold on his domain. We're privy to how this guy gets not just our sympathy but that of (well, most of) the rest of the film's characters, too. (One not so full of sympathy is the smart detective, played by Tim Roth, above.)

These satellites/sympathizers include Miller's beautiful wife (Susan Sarandon, above, and consummate as ever) and his intelligent and attractive daughter (Britt Marling, below, and much more impressive here than in Another Earth).

Also on hand is an old friend who is oddly much younger than Miller, the full identity of whom becomes apparent only as the movie progresses. Played quite well by Nate Parker, shown below, this character is pivotal in a number of ways.

For a time it seems as if our tale is about a fellow who, in almost every way, is a fake, and may be about to begin coming to terms with his fakery. To Jarecki's credit, things are more complicated than that. When, by the film's finale, justice of a sort has been meted out, things have changed almost totally from what they were, even as they remain the same. This is, I would suggest, how it usually goes for our country's, our world's, high rollers. But maybe not in the lip-smacking, deliciously perverse and entertaining manner we've enjoyed here.

The entire cast is crackerjack and is made excellent use of by Jarecki. Look for Graydon Carter in a small but exquisite role, in which he is so very good that I see a whole new career on the horizon, should Mr. Carter opt for it.

Arbitrage, from Roadside Attractions, opens across some 38 states in an enormous amount of theaters (for a "limited" release) this Friday, September 14. Here in New York City, it will play at  the Angelika, Clearview's 1st and 62nd and Chelsea cinemas, and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. To see all states, cities and theaters, simply click here. Oh, yes -- this film is simultaneously being shown via VOD.

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