Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Movie with Abe: Greed

Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Released February 28, 2020

There exists a clear disparity in the world between the richest and the poorest, with an incredible amount of wealth held by those with means that, distributed among those most in need, could do a whole lot of good. Many billionaires make sure that the great profits they take in lead to generous charitable donations, which work to offset their lavish living by giving back a portion of their earnings to those less fortunate. That’s not always the case, however, as some making a killing seek only to become richer, unconcerned with those they see as lesser and irrelevant in their pursuit of success.

Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan) lives a life of excess. He has spent years building clothing companies, constantly bartering for a better deal by countering a reasonable offer made by an associate or potential partner with a demeaning low price. Though not everyone is intimidated into submission, Richard’s efforts usually work, though, predictably, keeping costs down has led to a number of failed businesses and bankruptcy filings that make Richard the target of an investigation into his financial practices. Undeterred, Richard forges ahead with a wholly over-the-top sixtieth birthday party, ordering his minions to construct an arena in the style of “Gladiator” in Greece for the ultimate celebration of his lifestyle.

This is a fictionalized story meant to be taken as a satire about the super-rich. It’s easy to draw parallels to real-life people who seem to present their occasional donation as something to be commended rather than ethical and expected, and Richard is certainly as self-involved and as oblivious to the fact that he works with actual human beings as possible. Several supporting characters in the film, including Richard’s biographer (David Mitchell), have the chance to reflect on what kind of person he is, further highlighting the immense gap between what he spends and the minimal good he does. It’s infuriating to watch, and the film’s status as a satire doesn’t make the kind of behavior it portrays any less believable.

Coogan has starred recently in biopics like the underappreciated “The Look of Love,” as pornography publisher Paul Raymond, and “Stan and Ollie,” as comedian Stan Laurel. He’s more than equipped to play this part, reteaming with director Michael Winterbottom after numerous collaborations. The rest of the cast is strong, including Isla Fisher as the ex-wife who blissfully enjoys his many gifts and her tax-free yacht in Monaco. This film indulges in its absurdity in a way that’s entertaining but not always as poignant, offering an astonishing portrait of excess that leaves plenty to be pondered.


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