Fair Play

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

Fair Play
dir-scr Chloe Domont
prd Ben LeClair, Leopold Hughes, Allan Mandelbaum, Tim White, Trevor White
with Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan, Rich Sommer, Sebastian De Souza, Patrick Fischler, Sia Alipour, Brandon Bassir, Geraldine Somerville, Yacine Ramoul, Freddy Sawyer, Laurel Lefkow
release US/UK 6.Oct.23
23/US 1h53

marsan sommer sw

Is it streaming?

ehrenrich and dynevor
Slick and seductive, this drama features successful, beautiful people in gorgeous locations. Writer-director Chloe Domont maintains a strongly female perspective as events unfold and begin to spiral into a thriller. Oddly, as the story's tension rises, the film becomes less involving, abandoning wit and authenticity for arch melodrama. There's still plenty of bite in the interpersonal clashes, but financial-world shenanigans are rarely able to generate much spark on-screen.
In New York, Emily (Dynevor) is fully loved-up with her fiance Luke (Ehrenreich), but they need to keep their relationship a secret at the hedge fund where they work. Then their boss Campbell (Marsan) offers Emily a promotion that Luke thought was his, shifting the dynamic between them. Feeling sidelined in the office, Luke makes some dangerous moves of his own, pushing Emily in some uncomfortable directions and getting both of them in trouble with the boss. And problems are also brewing outside the office, including out-of-control parental pressure to announce their engagement.
It's intriguing to watch secrets begin to grow between this sexy couple, even if the secrets themselves are a bit dull. Profit and loss are not remotely exciting, even with an insistent musical underscore ramping up the atmosphere. Frankly, it's impossible to sympathise with hedge fund managers losing millions in a single keystroke. Their obsession with earnings over everything else makes them genuinely loathsome. So the only thing we like about Emily and Luke is the energetic chemistry they generate together. When that wobbles, it's difficult to care.

As they start squaring off against each other, Dynevor and especially Ehrenreich must act in a way that's far too heightened, which undermines the more naturalistic scenes early on. It's as if they're revealing the ambitious jerks they really are inside, so they only remain sympathetic due to these gifted actors' ability to reflect the vulnerabilities they're trying to hide. Marsan has a steely edge, adding some understated nuance as their demanding boss, while the other colleagues kind of blur into the background.

Along the way, the film makes some important observations about the male-dominated financial world, as Emily faces brutal verbal abuse and aggressive nights out involving alcohol and strippers. And once he's cornered, Luke isn't any better. So she calls him on it. This adds some topical interest to the rather stereotypical histrionics that increasingly fill each scene. As the script strains to become a pointed erotic thriller, where this goes is downright grim, but it certainly has a provocative kick.

cert 18 themes, language, sexuality, violence 4.Oct.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall