Film: ‘Arbitrage’ (2012)

Roadside Attractions

Mogul Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is in the process of selling his family-owned company. But beneath the entrepreneurial gloss, the event is more akin to a fire sale. That’s because Miller needs to unload his prize before anyone with accounting smarts detects a more than a $400 million fraud. Pluto rules the big reveal of whatever’s been hidden. And Miller has a lot to hide.

“Arbitrage,” written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, is a classic portrait of a controlling Pluto-fueled man unbound by traditional ethics, marital fidelity or truth. When a death that’s directly linked to Miller’s atrophied moral code poses a threat to the sale and even possible jail time for him, he’s not above implementing Saturn’s ploy of justifying the means to secure his end.

Miller’s wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) may not be totally innocent to her husband’s double-dealings. But his decision not to come clean with daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), his company’s second-in-command, is another story. Despite his veneration of family – the movie opens and closes with obvious affection for his brood – Miller, at the core, is his own island.

The movie is replete with filthy-lucre Pluto-charged comments. Some are generic, as when Miller underscores to a broadcast interviewer that there’s competition for a limited amount of dollars. Or when he describes his investment gamble as ostensibly a license to print money forever. But his soulless one-track mission is more evident when, in response to a query – “You think money’s going to fix this?” – Miller says, “What else is there?”

Calling himself the patriarch, Miller does an about-face when he tells Brooke, who confronts him, “You work for me, everybody works for me.” And although he maneuvers people like pawns, he extends a filial benevolence towards Jimmy (Nate Parker) – a young man from the wrong side of the tracks and the son of a valued former employee – that’s unexpected and even slightly redemptive. “He’s not like us,” says Miller.

What one person calls blackmail is another person’s definition of negotiation. Gere’s Miller seems to make it all emanate from a rotten locale below the earth.

Rating: ♇ (Pluto)

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