So is Arbitrage any good?

Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, an unfairly good looking billionaire who has just celebrated his sixtieth birthday with his family, is about to sell his successful trading empire, and all should be right with his world.

Because that would make for a really engrossing movie right – where a rich guy goes through his life without anything bad happening to him. I don’t think so.

Neither does writer/director Nicholas Jarecki who does a great job of introducing us to Robert Miller: Family Man before he introduces us to Robert Miller: Philanderer. You see handsome, likable Robert has a mistress (Laetitia Casta) and he is happier spending time with her than he is with his wife (Susan Sarandon). But the thing about mistresses is that they have needs too.

The evening that Robert has promised to be present at her art gallery opening is the evening he is stuck at a business dinner with some executives from the bank that plans on buying Robert’s company. Everyone except the big boss is there. Robert has no choice but to wait, which really doesn’t make his mistress very happy.

Why didn’t Robert just leave the dinner and go to the art gallery at the appointed hour? Because Robert’s company is in deep financial trouble. And if he is unable to sell it quickly a lot of people stand to lose a lot of money, and jobs; and he could go to jail. When he goes to make things up to Julie, his mistress, things get much, much worse for him.

So where do I start?

With the character work. Which is really really good. Richard Gere does affable as well as creepy so well it is difficult to believe that this is acting. He really owns the character of Robert Miller.

Tim Roth is so enjoyable to watch as Detective Bryer, the man who hates rich guys and is just itching to toss Miller in a cell. I haven’t seen actor Nate Parker in anything before but he is really good as the man who helps Robert out when nobody else can, and he plays out his character arc with so much confidence it was surprising to me that this guy isn’t more famous already.

The women have minor parts to play and they do them effectively enough. I just couldn’t help feeling like Brit Marling’s disaffected hipster line readings were a little at odds with the character she played: as the company’s Chief Investment Officer she reacts to news of financial treachery no differently from if someone told her that she was given actual milk instead of soy in her morning latte.

The plotting is intricate enough to reward those who pay attention. Mr. Jarecki said elsewhere in an interview that he wrote this script based on the world he knew (his parents were commodities traders) and it shows. Arbitrage is good storytelling backed by credible performances. I’m glad I watched this one.

Elvis