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Arbitrage - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

If the audience I was in watching Arbitrage was any indication, this is a movie for old people. I was easily the youngest person there and I'm in my mid-thirties. I swear two thirds of the people there were above seventy. (I wanted to say 80 but that would have been, maybe, a slight exaggeration.) It must be due to the stars: Richard Gere, who could only skate by on his youthful face for so long, plays a man who has his 60th birthday during the story. We never find out how old his wife, Ellen, is, but Susan Sarandon, at nearly 46, is three years older than Richard Gere.

So, you know. Not the youngest demographic. It's almost too bad, because the movie's actually pretty good. I found it engaging, anyway.

I can't say that I'd go out of my way to recommend it, exactly. That's not so much disparaging of Arbitrage as a simple reflection of better stuff available to see. But one day, when you see this movie playing on TV, well, you go ahead and watch it.

The performances are pretty solid all around. And that does include the younger Brit Marling (The Sound of My Voice), who plays Robert and Ellen Miller's daughter. Robert is the millionaire (billionaire?) owner of the company he's illegally shifting money around to keep afloat while he waits for someone to buy it; Brooke is both daughter and a senior-level employee of the company. And she's finding inconsistencies in the books.

In the middle of all this, Robert is having an affair, which Ellen knows about and tolerates. This other woman is hardly important beyond being a plot device, and I kind of wish a different setup could have been made for this -- the "other woman" is just so predictable in stories like this. But, she dies in a car crash. Robert can't afford the negative publicity it would create during a high-profile merger, so he walks away.

This is where it does get kind of interesting, because strictly speaking, Robert didn't kill her. He did, however, fall asleep at the wheel -- an effectively shocking moment in the film -- and she was in the passenger seat. Robert proceeds to do all he can to cover it up, which is a tad suspicious. This is all while committing fraud on a grand scale, involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

If there's anything that sets Arbitrage apart from other movies, it's that this isn't a story about suffering the consequences of bad decisions. This is about bad decisions that eventually pay off. We're watching a guy get away with it. Writer-director Nicholas Jarecki wants us to get invested in seeing Robert get away with it, even though we know we shouldn't want to. It didn't quite work that way with me, but it's an intriguing notion. I still would rather Robert got punished in some way or another, but I also know that in this story, a clear reflection of the real world of the filthy rich, had that happened, the movie would not have been as good. Or at least it would have had less integrity.

And this movie, to its credit, has integrity. It may not be much more than adequate entertainment, but it has that. It tells a compelling story, even if that story never quite goes anywhere particularly satisfying. But it doesn't exactly disappoint either, so there's that.

Brit Marling and Richard Gere discuss the surprising details of ARBITRAGE.

Overall: B
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