REVIEW: “Arbitrage” Is Slow And Contrived
It does not help that Gere's character lacks any level of human portrayal, blocking off any attempts at sympathy. Yes, he is playing a fraud whose arsenal of vices includes greed, conceit and idiocy. But does he not possess any trace of love for his family or even his mistress? Does he never feel sorry? This is why the ending does not work as it should.
The loose plot structure complements the contrived, recycled business fraud story. The attempt to present the film as ‘new’ and ‘hip’ is not well concealed. Gere’s on-screen mistress is an artist, so naturally you can expect supporting music from artistes like 'You Say Party!' and even Bjork. There's also an uncredited Grimes song somewhere. The camera is in shaky motion most of the time, lending a documentary-style effect – but such cinematography comes out seeming alien to the corporate setting of the film.
Another mistake the producers have made is to concentrate solely on Richard Gere and to market the film with his name. The only opening credit to come before ‘Arbitrage’ is his. No mention of Susan Sarandon or Brit Marling (“Another Earth”, “Sound of My Voice”), both of whom, despite their tiny roles, have outdone Gere in terms of acting quality, screen presence and chemistry. Marling’s organic style, for example, brings one of those lengthy scenes to life in a confrontation between her character and Gere's. And Sarandon manages to fit into her character and connect to her audience with dexterity. Together, they break the monotony of the plot, but ironically, also keep it from falling apart completely.
The ending third of the film is relatively more fulfilling. It’s no longer focused just on Gere’s character, but on his family, the detective who is investigating him, the guy who he’s been exploiting, courtroom corruption, and the gradual but underscored revelation of the man's fraud.
The ending is satisfactory when it comes.
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