Sometimes the greatest achievement of a story is to make you feel conflicted about a character when by all regards due to his/her actions, you are supposed to be entirely one dimensional in your feelings towards the character. Admittedly, it is a tad easier to do the same in movies than in books since in most cases, we tend to bring in our past subconscious biases & prejudices about the actor to the character that he/she is portraying. Richard Gere’s character & performance in Arbitrage is one such achievement where despite all that his character does & behaves on screen, despite all his foibles, his mistakes, his apathy, his selfishness, there is a small part inside you that roots for him & hopes that he gets out of the troubles of his own making
By all definitions, one should loathe Robert Miller (Richard Gere), the founder & owner of Miller Capital. While the suave urbane exterior proclaims him as the consummate Wall Street businessman, a very clever wheeler dealer, it’s the other activities that cause his life to spiral out of control. A$400M hole in his balance sheet that leads to a delay in the proposed takeover of his company being one of them while he adds onto his troubles by fleeing from an accident scene, one he created, causing the death of his mistress. He faces the possibility of being sent to jail for involuntary manslaughter & the case is being pursued tenaciously. Given the situation, Miller begins to crack as he tries to desperately manipulate, scheme, & connive his way out of all that. It is in that situation that a small part of you starts rooting for the guy. Despite the fact that he deserves his fate, as you see him do everything to escape unscathed, you cannot help but remain involved with him. Here is someone who has cheated his family, investors, potential acquirer through his own stupid actions and yet, you want everything to work out for him. That indeed is quite an achievement for the first time director, Nicholas Jarecki
Engrossing & anchored by superb performances by Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth & Brit Marling (yet another impressive performance), don’t miss the movie
PS: In one of the sequences, Miller signs up a document that lists the address for Miller Capital as 717 5th Avenue, NYC. That was the address of MF Global which declared bankruptcy as it tried to address the $1.6B hole in its balance sheet. Coincidence, anyone?