New on DVD

Arbitrage deals in the right currency

lars logoYEP YEP – Seems like I’ve been watching Richard Gere my entire life.

I must have taken five different high school dates to see An Officer and a Gentleman the year it came out (1982). It was the ultimate date flick. And Gere was so good.

For whatever reason, probably many, he hasn’t made that many films since that re-sparked my initial devotion to his unique brand of vulnerable machismo. But I ain’t mad.

Now, along comes ArbitrageThe perfect companion piece to Unfaithful.

Hallelujah.

Normally, this is the point in my “review” where I feel compelled to note the director of a film I just appreciated this much. In this case, I was shocked to learn that recent NYU Film School grad, Nicholas Jarecki, is only 25 and has no real precedent to point to. And really, this film is more about Gere’s return to form – made possible by an excellent script. A script that plays to all of his strengths, as well as the exceptional surrounding cast he swims with in this Bernie Madoff  shell game infidelity spider’s web.

Gere plays Robert Miller, a Wall Street fat cat who regularly adorns the cover of Forbes and has all around him bowing at the altar of his brilliance. His brilliance is validated by his net worth. Just ask him.

“Confidence equals contract.”

The film opens with Miller celebrating his 60th birthday with his wife (Susan Sarandon), his capitalist foot soldier children, and their accompanying rug rats – all around a lavish Manhattan brownstone dining room table – blowing out all those many candles on his cake.

Then, after telling them all that he finally “appreciates what’s really important in life…his family,”Arbitrage Miller the mogul – the “dedicated family man” – ducks out the back door and scurries across town to his French art gallery hottie. She also has a cake for him to blow out – but hers’ only has one candle. And, yeah, he blows that one out too.

Jarecki then peels the onion back and we learn that Miller’s financial firm is out of dough, relying exclusively on a $421m (remember when that seemed like a lot of money?) “loan” from a fellow corporate king in order to complete the sale of his family business. A family business that Miller risked on a bogus copper mine investment in Russia. Damned Russians got over again! Hate that.

So now we see why the super fit silver fox can’t sleep at night. He’s on the verge of bankruptcy and torn between two women.

Sound cliché? Hardly.

It all works.

Thanks mostly to Jarecki’s very smart script that takes time each step of the way to invest in the relationships on display.

We see enough of Gere with his mistress to understand their charge. We get enough of Gere in his work environment to see why he is successful and how people operate around him. A detective gets involved (an energized Tim Roth) and we feel his grit. A son of a former chum (outstanding Nate Parker) gets dragged on board the sinking ship and what, in a lesser film, would have been a throwaway character, is fleshed out beautifully.

Enough about the quality script, though. For your old pal, Lars B, it was awesome to see Richard Gere back in form. Smooth, charismatic, intelligent, cocky, and on the verge of destruction.

His scene in Central Park where he tries to explain his unethical maneuverings to his daughter (Brit Marling) crackles with all that good Gere stuff. It’s one of many scenes in this film that jumps off the screen.

Good for Gere.

His Golden Globe nomination validated his superior work in Arbitrage. In a softer film year he might have even been considered for an Oscar. But not this year.

I’m guessing Gere, ever the enigmatic globe setting Dalai Lama bff-ing eccentric, is okay with all of it. The actor has never been nominated for an Oscar, last appearing at the black tie throw down 20 years ago as a presenter and seizing the moment to plead for human rights in Tibet.

Now, it will be interesting to see if the man who once gave us “I got nowhere else to go!” actually shows up at the glitzy Globes to watch Daniel Day-Lewis win.

Me thinks not.

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