Richard Gere loses his cool in ‘Arbitrage’
“I’m under a lot of pressure,” Robert Miller (Richard Gere) repeats throughout Arbitrage, Nicholas Jarecki’s rather deft examination of a billionaire businessman trying to outrun his lies. “I have responsibilities… people are relying on me.”
Among those relying on Miller are his wife (Susan Sarandon), daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), mistress (Laetitia Casta), and his investors. This last group is the most meaningful to Miller, naturally, as they have made him the man he is.
So what kind of man is he? Jarecki sets out to answer this question in subtly perverse fashion, never deigning to judge him as much as coolly observe him.
Miller has business troubles. A billionaire with a beautiful family, a (seemingly) flourishing business, and a newly minted Forbes cover, there is in fact a $400 million hole in his balance sheet he’s plugging with a loan from an impatient colleague so he can clear the audit standing between him and the sale his business. No one, least of all his CFO – who also happens to be his daughter Brooke – knows about it.
To make matters worse, Julie, his mistress, goes all crazy on him. He offers to drive them upstate to spend some time together, but a car accident delays them indefinitely, and in fact, the accident is a neat little metaphor for what is perhaps Miller’s greatest skill: survival. We get the sense he’s been able to walk away from wreckage his entire life when no one else is spared. Will he get away this time?
To his credit, Jarecki’s doesn’t condescend us with the mechanics of the ensuing investigation. Detective Bryer (Tim Roth) has only one – albeit highly engaging – scene with Miller early on, and in a genre where the detective is supposed to appear and reappear like the suspect’s nagging conscience, it’s a remarkable thing that the brunt of Bryer’s investigation is more practically reserved for Jimmy (Nate Parker), Miller’s unwitting accomplice and part-time beneficiary.
And therein lies Arbitrage’s strength: despite familiar plot points, Jarecki’s screenplay inverts enough of the pieces to inspire equal parts intrigue, disgust, and a sort of wry pleasure in whether or not Miller gets away with it.
As we watch his high-wire act unfold, Miller covertly enlists our — dare I say — sympathies. Credit Gere’s finely calibrated performance. With a face like a fox, he weaves in and out of ruthlessness and remorse, ego and insecurity convincingly enough to add surprising accents to a man whose livelihood relies on the projection of confidence, even if there’s nothing back there.