I actually saw this movie months and months ago — while it was out in theaters, it was also available for streaming via Amazon, and my husband and I rented it one night when we suddenly found ourselves — wonder of wonders! — home together AT THE SAME TIME! (An election season MIRACLE that all spouses of political reporters can surely relate to.)
It’s about a billionaire named Robert Miller (Richard Gere) who manages a hedge fund along with his eldest daughter Brooke. On the surface, he seems to have the perfect life — heck, he’s even married to Susan Motherfrakkin’ Sarandon, for pity’s sake (Note: that’s not her real middle name, BUT IT SHOULD BE). Underneath that idyllic exterior, though — well, not so much with the idyll.
As it turns out, you see, Miller’s been desperately trying to sell off that hedge fund, not so he can retire, as he keeps telling his family, but so he can get as far away from it as possible before anybody figures out he committed fraud a few years back to cover a loss he thought would be temporary (like that ever works out, you hedge fund knuckleheads).
Things go from bad to worse, though, the night Miller and his young mistress Julie decide to go for a drive and end up in a terrible car crash that leaves Miller all bruised up and Julie dead in the seat next to him. Rather than calling the cops to report the accident, Miller moves Julie to the driver’s seat (it’s her car) and flees the scene, afraid the scandal will cost him the sale of the hedge fund he so desperately needs.
Tim Roth plays the detective called out to the accident scene, and can quickly tell the body’s placement in the car doesn’t add up (because he’s an expert on body language, dead or alive, ever since starring on that show Lie to Me, duh). As with most movie detectives, he hates rich people, so when he hears a rumor Miller had a connection to the victim, he immediately goes after him like my kitten Otis with a ball of yarn. No surface left unstringed, and no stopping until there is no string left to strung. Or something more grammatically correct than that.
This movie doesn’t have a lot of originality in terms of storyline, but it’s still very compelling, and what drives that the most, in my opinion, is the complexity of Miller’s character. Described here, he sounds like a total bastard, right? He’s ripped people off to make a profit for himself, committed fraud, and left his dead girlfriend behind in a car in the middle of a freezing cold night, simply to avoid putting a crimp in his business style. What an asshole!
The thing is, though, the more the movie progressed, the more I felt terrible for Miller instead of angry at him. The scene in which Brooke confronts him about the fraud, after prepping the books for the sale of the fund and finding evidence of her father’s cookery, was an intensely powerful and painful one, and Gere’s performance was spot-on flawless. He’s sort of playing a bad guy who doesn’t know he’s a bad guy, really. He’s a man taken down by hubris, rather than simply by greed or conscious evil-doing, which makes him a much more interesting character than, say, Bernie Madoff. He’s conflicted and complicated — and so is our reaction to him.
Arbitrage isn’t a movie that stands out all that much, I wouldn’t say. It’s not one I’m likely to take the time to watch again, for example. But it was a nice little surprise, well-written and strongly acted, and it’s one definitely worth a rental now that it’s out on DVD. Recommended!
Cast: Tim Roth, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, William Friedkin, Brit Marling, Monica Raymund