Saturday, March 28, 2015

ARBITRAGE

Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon,
Laetitia Casta, Brit Marling,
Tim Roth, Nate Parker

"Power is the best Alibi"


I was just thinking out loud that it has been a while since I saw the dashing Richard Gere in a movie, any film for that matter. Lo and behold, I discover this thriller in my folder of movies to watch. 

The silver haired actor ages well I'd say just like fine wine. In "Arbitrage" he is as debonair, if not more so in his tailored suits as Robert Miller, an astute business owner of a hedge fund company. Business terms like venture capital, mergers, hedge funds abound in the dialogue as Robert Miller finds his conglomerate at risk of failing amidst his grandiose efforts to keep it afloat. 

Robert Miller is the typical wealthy businessman with a socialite wife and 2 grown children who are eventually expected to take over his company. Granted that it still exists given all the financial problems that plague it after Miller got sucked into investing at a copper mine company in Russia.  

I guess another 'typical' aspect for a successful and sinfully rich tycoon is to have affairs with young, naive ladies who stupidly expect him to leave his wife for them. Alas, his current 'fling' ends up dying in an accident and it just happens that Miller was driving and fell asleep at the wheel.

As if his financial troubles with his company wasn't enough for Miller to be totally stressed out, the unfortunate accident makes his life spiral out of control beyond his wildest dreams. And for a man who likes everything to be in control, one can just imagine how much of a burden it is - for someone who worked so hard to sustain his comfortable lifestyle.

Arbitrage is the business practice of buying in one market and selling at an advantage in another, simultaneously. It is basically a risk free profit although there are always risks involved in the exchange part or that the market will move before the deal is sealed.

Richard Gere took a risk in playing this calculated hedge fund capitalist. But he succeeds with flying colors as he is quite convincing and you somehow tend to root for him even though he is morally conflicted, both as a businessman and a person. 

Towards the end of the film, Richard's wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) dangles a document that will affect his and his family's future. Whether he signs it or not is not shown and we are left with a cliffhanger! Whether we agree or not with this type of conclusion is also subject to different opinions. 

But I'd say that Arbitrage is a slick, provocatively intelligent psychological thriller about greed, betrayal and moral dilemma. But the final dilemma lies with us, the audience. We are left to speculate about Robert Miller's fate.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

FADING GIGOLO

Woody Allen, John Turturro.
Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber,
Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone

"The Oldest Profession
Just Got Older"


I may be one among a very few fans left of Woody Allen. What can I  say? The guy is an esteemed iconic figure in the film industry so despite his alleged personal family troubles, I still respect him for his wide body of work, both as an actor but more so as a director.

So I make it a point to see every single one of his movies. In "Fading Gigolo" he portrays a bankrupt business owner named Murray who is forced to close his book store and out of the blue he decides to be a 'pimp'.  He commissions his friend, Fioravante (John Turturro), a local florist to become a gigolo. In short, a male prostitute. He is a success even though Fioravante has feelings of guilt each time he accepts payment for his services.

It has to be mentioned that John Turturro wrote and directed this film which unfolds in the enclave of the Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, New York. Vis a vis with the gigolo premise, another story unveils too in the form of Avigal (Vanessa Paradis in a off beat role) a Hasidic Rabbi's widow with 6 children.  Living mostly a sheltered life with many restrictions, she is mostly lonely until Murray convinces her to go for a massage session with Fioravante. Understandably, this awakens her inner spirit and she feels reborn albeit must still conform to the strict dictates of her faith.

There are many layers in this far fetched yet humorous spectacle. But Turturro manages to blend them all together with the help of an unexpected line up of actors cast in unconventional roles. He pays homage to Woody Allen's screen work in terms of dialogue, tone and atmosphere, even down to the musical score of mostly jazz tunes. He probably wrote the entire film with Allen in mind and I'd say he did a good job even though it strives on a preposterous plot which nobody would take seriously yet it kept me entertained and quite amused.
 

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