a tense moment between father and daughter
Director Nicholas Zarecki directorial debut, 'Arbitrage', shows a morally gray America, not just in the greedy corporate sector, but also in family, in administration and across the social spectrum. It is an unrelentingly dark film which shows the social and moral malaise, almost cynical but it is not. Robert Miller, played by Richard Gere, is the corporate tycoon is in trouble of all kinds, on the personal front as well as on the business front. He has a demanding woman in his life, played by Laetitia Casta, a wife, played by Susan Sarandon, and daughter, played by Brit Marling, reveals the friction common to all relationships. There is also the bonding and attachment, genuine concern and even a bit of affability in it all. Neither the world nor the people are cruel. There is the sliver of goodness lurking in the background. A relentless pursuit of wrongdoing would have turned the story into a story of merciless nemesis.
In one charged scene in the film, Gere asserts, 'I am the patriarch'. And he fulfills his obligations of a patriarch to his family, to his employers and even to the black boy who drives him on the troubled night when he walks off after the car accident in which the woman in his life dies, a la Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick. At the end of it all he handles all the problems with grit and cunning as is expected of a man and a patriarch. It is a realistic tale though pessimistic from the naive American viewpoint. If the same film was made in France it would be interpreted differently. It will now be interpreted as something that goes against the American grain.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Zarecki's film remains interesting and even a bit riveting. It seems to say "A man has to do what he has to do". It is not amoral or completely immoral. But the film shows the tricky that life is. The hard players survive. This does not mean that the meek and the good have no place. There will be a story of the good folk who manage the bad world, like Forrest Gump for example.