Oct. 24, 2012 - Issue #888: Winter Guide 2012
An unbalanced mix of character study and thriller
Miller's problems include the possible exposure of big-ticket financial fraud that could thwart the desperately needed sale of his company and land his own daughter (Brit Marling), a partner in the company but unaware of dad's having cooked the books, in jail. More urgently—at least for audience members more versed in the perils of illicit sex than corrupt financial practices—Miller's mistress (Laetitia Casta), a young artist whose career and very comfortable lifestyle he's supporting, is killed late one night in an accident resulting from Miller falling asleep at the wheel. Imagining the chaos that news of his involvement in the accident will unleash upon both his professional and personal life—he assumes his wife (Susan Sarandon, in a role undeserving of her talents) doesn't know about the affair—Miller decides not to dial 911 and instead flees the scene and calls on the son (Nate Parker) of a former chauffer whom he figures owes him a favour. Soon a scruffy, innately suspicious detective (Tim Roth) starts sniffing around, trying to force the chauffer's son to squeal on Miller, and soon we're fully immersed into the terrain of the slickly anonymous Hollywood thriller, replete with a boilerplate dial-tone genre score from Cliff Martinez and a baffling dependency on establishing shots. It's as though Jarecki, like Miller, feels like everything will work out all right if he simply dots every i and crosses every t. Instead, the film feels overworked and overlong.
There are ways of fusing the elements of a character study with those of a thriller; I think Arbitrage might have benefitted from injecting more of the former into the latter. Gere's quite appropriately cast, perfectly convincing as a guy who works very, very hard at being a phony. Gere does fine with what he's given, but I wanted Jarecki to be a little more curious about him, to fully commit to letting the audience be the judge of Miller's actions and surrender to a truly subjective, first-person approach.
Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
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