In the midst of a global economic downturn, with millions out of work and struggling to make ends meet, Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage (2012) poses a challenging premise by asking its audience just how much they care for the self-inflicted problems faced by the likes of Richard Gere’s hedge fund magnate Robert Miller. Jarecki doesn’t stop there either, as there’s more to Arbitrage than a mere challenge; there’s a complexity that, as director, he explores sincerely, employing a cast that largely deliver. Miller (Gere) is in trouble. He’s anxious to complete the sale of his trading empire and begins to make poor decisions that spiral into bigger, more personal problems.
Struggling to conceal his duplicity from his loyal and loving wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and his adoring and exceptional daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), Miller’s anxiety becomes implosive and everything around appears to be caving in. To make matters worse, a bloody incident leads to further complications, leaving him juggling the love of his family, the sale of his business and a crime that just won’t go away.
Arbitrage is a thriller about a man who is seemingly bringing about his own demise and therefore, to achieve the subtle nuances required to deliver such a character – one ridden with a deeply embedded internal battle – Jarecki chooses the experienced talents of Gere. He also notably surrounds him with some quite brilliant supporting players, who each seem to draw a different aspect of Gere’s Miller out. Sarandon, as wife Ellen, is Miller’s love – his heart belongs to her; Marling, as daughter Brooke, is his pride – she is his real investment and project; his business is symbolic of the power he believes he yields and his ego, whilst his beautiful and artistic French mistress, Julie (Laetitia Casta), is his passion.
With the state of the world’s economy and the disdain held by many for those in the position of Miller, Jarecki surprisingly manages to draw out a sense of sympathy for his protagonist. He even goes as far as encouraging empathy with his plight by making Miller an everyman of sorts, whose decision-making – or lack thereof – spirals out of his control, mostly to save the feelings of those he loves. As Arbitrage goes on, it seems to be no longer about a man who cooked the books, so to speak; it’s about somebody just trying to make things right, whilst still saving themselves and their family from further trouble and/or humiliation; something everyone has done at some point in their lives.
As both writer and director, Jarecki’s decision to approach the film in this manner is vindicated, as, whilst the audience may not root for Miller, it’s hard to not want him to succeed. Stepping back from Arbitrage’s plot and story, this is a solid directorial debut from Jarecki, and having steered the acting talents of Gere, Sarandon, Marling and Tim Roth, as the cop hell-bent on Miller’s imprisonment, he has proven his mettle.
To read our interview with Arbitrage director Nicholas Jarecki, simply follow this link.