Writer/director Michael Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan have collaborated before in biopics (24 Hour Party People, The Look of Love) and straightforward comedies (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip franchise), but they haven’t tackled a movie like Greed. Greed binds those previously mentioned genres into a potently bitter, satirical tragicomedy – a fitting playground for Winterbottom and Coogan.
Coogan plays Sir Richard McCreadie. Nicknamed “McGreedy”, he’s an arrogant fashion retail giant who rules the roost even when he’s staring at impending failures. After smashing record-breaking financial goals, he prepares for his 60th birthday in with an opulent Roman-themed party (complete with a condensed coliseum built from scratch) and a celebrity guest list. McCreadie’s indulgent requests result in presentation delays, and he treats each one as if their mini natural disasters. Meanwhile, his helpers twitch at the thought of another disappointment. Some of them find catharsis in unwinding to McCreadie’s biographer Nick (David Mitchell), others (like his ex-wife played by Isla Fisher) simply enable and humour Richard.
Winterbottom tells McCreadie’s story in an unusual way; cutting back-and-forth between the billionaire’s upbringing, business snafus and hearings, and the outcome of his popular legacy. The film maintains even flare that blends through each scene, but it’s still easy to follow Winterbottom’s jagged timeline. Coogan is fantastic as the film’s toxic narcissist. You love to hate him, and you feel bad for laughing at his cruel insults. Along with a killer performance by Jamie Blackley as a younger version of Richard, Coogan stays consistent to the character. Even when McCreadie is on top of the world, he’s always looking for expendable qualities and loose threads to gripe about. He also has a fascination with flashy theatrics and Greek mythology, including a ridiculous obsession with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator) – appropriate inflections for Greed.
Although the film appears to be a twin of The Wolf of Wall Street (and the best film of its kind since Scorsese’s epic biopic), movie goers will appreciate seeing how corporate selfishness trickles down – something the comparable flick didn’t do. Jokes are countered by heavy emotions as Winterbottom acknowledges the prejudice against outsourced foreign workers and the unacceptable conditions they’ve been forced to abide by (unreasonable budgets, safety risks). We also see how the hubris of a crooked leader can effect supporters who happen to be on the same team. Dinita Gohil, for instance, is really good as loyal yet humiliated assistant Amanda. She’s purposely understated, and she delivers on minor mannerisms and a fiery passion for Amanda’s backstory.
Greed doesn’t offer any solutions to the concerning topics it recognizes, such as classist inequality, consumerism, and corporate cheats. It is, however, a movie that brings awareness to these issues in hopes that the audience will invest themselves towards a much-needed change in society.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie