The simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency or commodities in different markets, or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset.
Now you know what the title means. Director Nicholas Jarecki knows a lot about it. His father, I’ve learned, is the fabulously wealthy philanthropist Henry Jarecki. So there.
But you don’t have to know that. All you need to know is that young Jarecki has made a smart movie about smart people — a slick film, as slick as the wheeler dealers who live 30 stories higher than all of us, and as polished as the silverware in the drawers of their limos.
Here’s what you need to know: Richard Gere is Robert Miller, a silver-haired, silver-tongued hedge-fund manager — yes, one of those — and he’s on the cover of “Forbes” magazine just as he is in the process of selling off his company and getting out of the business . . . maybe.
Robert has everything we would all like to have and won’t, because God likes us more. He has his private jet, yacht and midtown Manhattan mansion. He gives unimaginable amounts of money to charities, and as this film moves toward its conclusion, he is about to take the podium at a hospital award ceremony and become king of all the givers.
We meet his lovely wife (the breathtaking Susan Sarandon) and his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), his personal assistants and aides and all of the other players who use Central Park as their front lawn. Then we meet the problem –his lover, Julie (Laetitia Casta.) Julie is an artist or art dealer or both, whom he sets up in the thick pastel clouds of the big money museum world. Julie is gorgeous. Julie is sweet. Julie snorts cocaine while she’s waiting for Robert to leave his wife and run away with her. Poor Julie. Didn’t the nuns teach these convent school girls anything? Sister Rossana would have told her they never leave their wives.
You will hear about the missing $400 million, and how Robert has cooked his books and snuck it past his chief financial officer/daughter. You will wonder why a man so smart has been so dumb. And then you realize snorting money is the same as cocaine.
You will watch him go in and out of meetings all over the city, and try to cover it up without breaking a sweat, and then seal a deal that will bring in more than five times that amount and leave him safe and alive. But it’s not over.
Yes. It’s a suspense movie. We bite our nails, hoping it will all work out for Robert, that his deal will work and he’ll be successful. Why? Robert’s a snake, a wheeler dealer who only thinks about Robert. Why? Because he’s handsome and rich and Richard Gere, and we don’t really like the other guys.
Then comes the accident. That’s all I’m going to tell you, and don’t read the other reviewers because they’re all giving the good stuff away. The accident will come quick and hard on a dark highway, and a phone call will be made to a sweet young black man in Harlem who owes Robert a favor, and who may go down with the others. There will be a fireball in the night, and the granddaddy of all cover-ups. There will be a cop (the great, snarly Tim Roth) who plays Inspector Javert in a J.C. Penny suit, and he won’t let up.
“Arbitrage” skates smoothly across the polished marble floors of Wall Street, the inlaid imported teak floors of Park Avenue, the wet asphalt of Harlem and the dark silk sheets of the unimaginably rich. Director Jarecki is good. He lets us feel the material that swishes through the corridors of power, smell the cologne and perfume, taste the food we don’t even recognize. And Gere is good. Gere is always good, even if he is always the same in almost every movie he makes. You can give a man a $10,000 suit, but he has to know how to walk in it or it’s just off the rack from Sears. Gere knows the walk.
There is Susan Sarandon who is always perfect. When Susan — faced with soul-killing duplicity — breaks down, we go down with her.
And the movie is laced with some of the best character actors in town. You won’t know their names, but they lift the film to greater heights:
Stuart Margolin, as the trusted lawyer who has always been so right-on-target perfect in every role he’s ever played.
There’s Reg E. Cathey, veteran actor who wears camel hair better than anyone, Tibor Feldman and OMG Vanity Fair’s famous editor, Graydon Carter as a big dog Wall Streeter.
Some might say it’s just another “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “Wall Street”/”Money Never Sleeps.” Possibly. Actually, it’s more like television’s “Damages,” with Glenn Close. But don’t we love to watch the very rich in trouble?
J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.