Arbitrage

Went to see this at the Little Picture House cinema in Bath. I visit this beautiful city once in every few months, because it’s so close to Bristol and always feels for some reason, like a little trip abroad. I enjoy merging with the many visitors who are there, like me, for the day, to admire and pay homage to this city of many splendours. So, my expectations went a bit off-key when faced with coachloads of not just the usual tourists but also hordes of rugby fans for a big match on Easter Saturday.
On finding my way to the Little Picture House on St Michael’s Place, one of those cinemas that still look so glamorous and plush with red velvet curtains and ornate architecture (others include the Notting Hill Coronet in London, the Ritzy in Brixton, still mourning the loss of the Whiteladies Picture House), another surprise was being told that Arbitrage was showing at Komedia, the comedy club close by. Expecting garish and modern, I was pleasantly surprised to see another well-preserved, old-fashioned theatre with a lovely balcony where we sat to watch this low-budget, well-reviewed movie.
The film was very classy – with Richard Gere playing Robert Miller – his role is a combination of fixer-cum-millionaire crook. For some reason, he reminded me of George Clooney’s and Tilda Swinton’s characters in Michael Clayton rolled into one. The difference was that you just couldn’t hate him for being a greedy capitalist. He’s particularly good when he plays these flawed characters – one forgets that he’s a really good actor (distracted as is understandable by his wonderfully romantic roles and brooding looks) and not as smug as Mr Clooney can be sometimes! Way more gorgeous than George too.
Once I had the Michael Clayton reference stuck in my head, I felt there were quite a few familiar moments from that film, that remains memorable for its amazingly strong cast, real dramatic tension and fabulous dialogue (“I’m Shiva, the God of Death).  The dialogue in Arbitrage could’ve been punchier – it sagged at crucial points for me – during the confrontation with daughter on the park bench, when she discovers the fudging of accounts, with wife, Susan Sarandon who fails to impress as the wronged wife in the climax. The Michael Clayton comparison continued when watching the way the criminal investigation of the death of Miller’s French mistress gets fixed (a very similar car explosion takes place). Funnily enough, it works out satisfactorily for Miller, who somehow pulls it off and gets away with it. You actually feel relieved when he manages to get a clean audit report (to push the sale of his company) through bribing the right official, and a little sad when he gets his relatively gentle comeuppance. I think the director’s inexperience showed – its his first film but worth watching just to see a tightly wound up Richard Gere carrying it off with a lot of style and elegance.

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