If Adrian Lyne ever made a movie about Wall Street, I have a feeling it would look something like “Arbitrage” (OK, maybe with a little less steaminess). Nicholas Jarecki’s debut narrative feature has high stakes, heightened emotions, and well over fifty shades of grey in every character. It’s a world where every character is suspect and every decision deserves a screaming match debating the respective merits of the choice.
Don’t get me wrong, I like when movies give themselves a sense of weight. Sometimes to create drama, you have to do a little dramatization. But it’s done to a bit of an extreme in “Arbitrage.” When you hit a high note in the first third of the movie and keep at the same pitch for nearly an hour, you lose a sense of forward momentum propelling both the film’s story and the audience’s interest. Not to mention, watching a movie so high-strung and strung out gets quite exhausting.
This exaggerated acting leads to some fine performances, especially from Richard Gere as a ruthless, conniving greedy hedge fund executive (apparently the only kind these days). He’s slick, slippery, and seriously stupefying. Gere’s Robert Miller is motivated by deep, dark forces, ones that the actor digs deep to wrestle with. Dealing with the collapse of his financial house of cards and the death of his mistress at the same time tend to make someone that primal, though.
While Susan Sarandon as his scorned wife and Brit Marling as his conflicted daughter can both shout at his level, neither can match Gere’s intensity. I just wish “Arbitrage” had toned down a little bit to stay level with Gere. A little bit of internalizing and a little less monologuing could have done wonders for the movie. As is, it feels like an all too familiar yell that dilutes its own message with heavy-handedness. B /