January 31, 2023


Today's News Headlines, Breaking News & Latest News from India and World, News from Politics, Sports, Business, Arts and Entertainment

‘Fair Play’ Review: A Gripping Financial Drama

7 min read

No matter how many “good little movies” play at Sundance, the festival can’t move forward if it doesn’t feature movies that can break out of the independent-film-world bubble. And look, it’s not like a movie has to be one or the other! “Fair Play” is a perfect example. It’s a finance drama, set inside a cutthroat New York hedge fund, and a romantic thriller that takes an intelligent and probing look at sexual politics in a post-#MeToo world. To put it bluntly: can it be a commercial film? You bet. It’s one of the rare Sundance films that can completely break through in the real world — and in an era when films like “Tar” and “The Fablemans” have struggled, that makes it a special commodity. But the key to the film’s potential success is not just that it’s made in a commercial genre. It’s that “fair play,” when sex, money, corporate backstabbing, and so many other things that are fun to watch, is A good little movie.

It’s written and directed by Chloé Dumont, a director of series television (“Billions,” “Ballers,” “Clarice”) whose feature debut is making it, and Dumont has created one of the rare films set in the financial demimonde that nails everything it does — the numbers. Words, risk/reward systems, sibling friendships and betrayals — in a way that’s authentic enough to make us believe we’re actually seeing this world, and not some oversimplified Hollywood version of it. In the ’80s, “Wall Street” was a finance drama that knew how to talk. More recently, these films include “Boiler Room” (2000) and “Margin Call” (2011).

“Fair Play” joins their accomplished company, and what’s delightful about it is that the characters, analyzing which assets to invest or discard, speak in a way that’s so fast and dense with inside information that the film isn’t asking us with every word. To keep up. It asks us to consider the underlying logic of transactions: how every decision to buy or sell is based on knowledge about the companies that analysts plug into with great advantage. It’s as if they’re betting not on horses but on skittery 3D holograms whose profile keeps changing.

The story centers on Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) and Emily (Phoebe Dinever), whom we meet at a wedding, where they’re drunk and horny enough to make a quick bathroom break. In the thick of the action, Luke drops a small metal object on the floor; This is the engagement ring he plans to offer Emily. He does, she accepts, and they return to their shabby but spacious apartment near Chinatown. The next morning, they walk to work together, then part ways and head in opposite directions. But in the next scene, they’re riding in an elevator together, chit-chatting on a fake Monday morning, as they arrive at One Crest Capital’s office.

Both work as analysts there, but have kept their romantic relationship under wraps. As we learn, it’s not that they’re so personal; Because the relationship violates company policy. The film uses this post-#MeToo, all-too-real-world scenario to create scenes that tap into a new flavor of office drama, as the two have to be studiously brazen with each other. But after a hedge fund “PM” (portfolio manager) gets fired and vandalizes his office with a golf club, his position suddenly opens up and Emily, hunched over Luke’s multicolored computer screen, can’t resist telling him about it. . Rumors he heard: the post was going to go to him. Instead, Emily gets a call during the evening, inviting her downtown for drinks with Campbell (Eddie Marsan), the company’s boss and owner. She lets Emily know that it is her, indeed, who is going to be the new prime minister.

As soon as she breaks the news to Luke, he reacts in a textbook perfect way with his hearty congratulations and supportive ways. When he says, “I’m so proud of you,” it’s with a wry smile of sincerity. But it’s a sign of a fine movie, “Fair Play,” that we don’t need to see Luke’s underlying despair; We can read it in Alden Ehrenreich’s vibe. He’s an actor that I admit I started rooting for in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” because I thought he was underwhelming as a young Han Solo. But now I see why. there is something expedient About Alden Ehrenreich he’s not wound up; He is a cerebral mover and shaker. And that makes her perfect to play a finance hotshot who has learned to keep her thoughts secret and now has to do the same in her love affairs.

Luke is assigned as Emily’s analyst, meaning he works directly under her; He makes recommendations about which liquid assets to trade and he decides. We can tell how it’s going to go as he delays responding to one of her email requests (he only waits 30 seconds, but the tension speaks volumes). And when he makes an urgent application to buy one, and it turns out that his information was wrong and trade tanks, the situation blows up. The boss’s reaction, hearing that the fund has lost millions, is not pretty. Actually, it’s disgusting. He calls Emily a “dumb fucking bitch” to her face. But we’re meant to understand that the abusive language, even in this era, refers to the hedge-fund culture of ruthlessness — a cult that Emily, like everyone there, wants to be a part of, so she shuts up about it. And when he makes a trade, based on another Luke Hunk, that turns out to be a bananza, all is forgiven. The next morning, he walked away victorious and Campbell gave him a commission: a check for $575,000.

At the One Crest office, you’re either a winner or a loser. And what we learn, including Emily, is that almost everyone there is designated a loser. After two years or so, unless you’ve vaulted to the next level, you’re expected to walk away with your tail tucked between your legs. Emily escapes this fate. But Luke? Not too much.

He’s a loser in the company because he’s not one of the (few) winners, and the worm of doubt begins to eat him when he asks Emily, seemingly innocently, if their boss is that late-night drink, trying to make a move on him. In a lesser movie (for example, if “Fair Play” had been made by Adrian Lyne in the ’90s), Luke’s paranoia about betrayal would have expanded and taken over him. But here the matter is much uglier. He is not really concerned about infidelity. He’s using the prospect to downplay Emily’s qualifications—saying, in short, “The boss may have designs on you. Which is real Because you got it.”

Emily, in Luke’s eyes, cannot win. He goes out for drinks with top-level managers, even tags along with them at a lap-dance club, where he plays along with their frat-house skittishness, because he knows what he has to do; To be victorious, he must be in the boys’ club. But when Luke calls her out on it, tweeting her with scathing condemnation, “You don’t look like one of the boys,” it’s a great line that crystallizes male #MeToo paranoia. He says, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” The conversation between these two slowly turns into a blizzard of power gamesmanship. It’s like the great restaurant logic of the early “Triangle of Sorrows” that I wish Ruben Ostland could have sustained.

A hedge-fund office is a unique place, light years away from most of us, but Chloe Domont uses the office here to channel something about the spirit of our times. There’s plenty of lewd banter, and the finance patter makes the characters sound like computers on Adderall, yet there’s no real connection, no. joy Beyond the transient ping of the next contract. Eddie Marsan’s compelling performance as Campbell ushers in the new era. He is ruthless and omniscient, with a stare that could slice through a glacier. Men in the office – and yes, it’s all about men – admit they’ve created a culture of sociopaths, and they’re great at it. Pretending otherwise is not winning. Your only god is the market.

Is Luke jealous of Emily? Most definitely. But “Fair Play” is a good movie because her jealousy reveals something bigger — the way the future-is-feminine power she preaches skews her place in the universe. And once she reveals her true colors, so, to our shock, does Emily. She conveys what she’s holding on to, and Phoebe Dinever’s performance, at once forceful and restrained, emerges in a way we didn’t expect. Emily earns her place among the gladiators, which Luke says he supports. But the real question he’s asking is: How do you like me now?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *