"What's an Applebees?"
Just when you thought you couldn't hate Richard Gere any more, he stars in a film as a billionaire hedge fund manager who has an affair with Laetitia Casta. Just doesn't seem fair, does it? Gere has always made it easy in front of the lens, effortlessly dictating the flow that the script allowed. It's been a while since we've seen him at the height of his powers (I'd argue 2002's UNFAITHFUL), and it's nice to see him back in something worthy of watching.
In ARBITRAGE, Gere plays Robert Miller, a brilliant man who bites off way more than he can chew, occupationally and socially. Through some poor decisions and simple bad luck, Miller loses a hearty 400 million dollars in an investment. Hoping to bide his time in order to recoup his losses, Miller cooks his accounting books, hiding his embarrassment from his daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling), and staying away from an inevitable fraud indictment.
Miller is married to Ellen (Susan Sarandon), a woman long accustomed to living in the way her husband has provided her. She heads the nonprofits that the Millers are involved in; the time spent perhaps shields her from her husband's goings on. One of which is the other woman, which gives us an excuse to talk about Laetitia Casta again. The French beauty turns in a fine and important role as Julie, an art dealer whom Miller helps to set up a gallery. Their relationship begins as professional, but quickly turns sexy. One night the two paramours are taking a drive when Miller dozes off and crashes into an embankment. The wreck leaves him battered with internal bleeding, and Julie dead; a point only emphasized when the SUV he was driving explodes moments after he escapes. He refuses to call the police, instead reaching out to his former chauffeur's son; a decision made to avoid any penetrating gazes while his financial troubles subside.
It seems at the very least irresponsible, but I found myself rooting for the rich white guy during the whole ordeal. Maybe due to the smarminess of Tim Roth's Detective Bryer (the cop assigned to the vehicular case), but most likely because I wanted to cheer for Julian Kaye once more. Miller's two problems inescapably collide, precipitating a skillful balancing act between his office, the cops, and his family. Miller has made a living out of using everyone around him. These thoughts and actions have allowed him to become rich and all powerful. Stopping now, even at a time of great peril doesn't even cross his mind. Basically, the dude's a dick, but he's a dick that doesn't want to get pinned and sent to the slammer, and he'll do whatever's necessary to remain a free man.
The last thirty-minutes are a very rewarding experience, as while the narrative shifts to many arguments, the accountability resides firmly on the shoulders of one man, and the finality of his actions aren't decided until the waning few moments. Against the old adage, money can indeed buy happiness, but it does have a shelf life. Inappropriate decisions will always lead to unfortunate circumstances, and we may one day find ourselves alone at a podium with no one to turn to.