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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Life + Arts

Stubborn direction hinders flow of movie dialogue


In “Arbitrage,” directed by Nicholas Jarecki, a hedge-fund magnate tries to save his crumpling empire by using every illegal and shady practice.

The sale of his fund to a competitor is further damaged by the end of a rocky affair that forces him to choose between his conscience and the future of his family.

Despite Richard Gere’s strong and well-balanced performance as Miller, “Arbitrage” is all about the direction.

By placing many misfortunes in Miller’s past, Jarecki strives to force the main character to maneuver himself from the mess that is bound to suffocate him. The move fits the psychological puzzle that Jarecki creates as pieces must fall together for Miller to survive and maintain the façade that he kept in place.

There is more morality to the billionaire. Miller is a man trying to do the right thing for his investors, but he also does a lot of damage to others in the process. Despite his mistakes, none of them too small, and as the audience bear witness to his criminal acts, some may find themselves wondering when Miller will break in his resolve or if any type of conflict could crumple him.

The atrocious dialogue of the film turns out to be the most jarring. A conversation between two characters quickly devolves in to a yelling match that’s similar to courtroom dramas. The characters’ emotion of anger isn’t even intriguing, but rather boring and brutish.

While Jarecki might have avoided physical violence in “Arbitrage,” it does him no favors. The excessive yelling preps the audience for a violent reaction, but in places where a quick punch would have diffused the anger, audiences are left with lines and lines of furious dialogue to accomplish the same effect.

Despite notable actors like Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth, the strongest performance is that of Gere. This movie could have given Gere an Oscar, but the blame again goes to Jarecki’s use of character dialogue. As much as Jarecki wants to make this about Miller’s psychology during his troubles, he does not allow anything to be left unsaid. Every little trouble externalizes and therefore, downplays Gere’s performance.

“Arbitrage” is well-executed suspense thriller, but its biggest crime is that heavy dialogue makes the film less memorable. The film lacks the violence and gratuitous language used in similar films. Besides an event early in the movie, the rest of the picture is more a conversational piece that isn’t well-suited for theater.

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