Greed

Review by Charles Bramesco @intothecrevasse

Directed by

Michael Winterbottom

Starring

Isla Fisher Sophie Cookson Steve Coogan

Anticipation.

Every third Winterbottom picture turns out well, and we’re just about due.

Enjoyment.

Greed is good, but not great.

In Retrospect.

It’s mainly the teeth that stay with you.

Fake tan and righteous fury abound in Michael Winterbottom’s satire of a mega-rich entrepreneur.

Low prices exact a high cost in Greed, writer/director Michael Winterbottom’s satire of the fast fashion industry. Everything noxious about capitalistic practice today finds a human vessel in Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan, outfitted with blinding white dentures that put Jonah Hill’s teeth in The Wolf of Wall Street to shame), known to the many that loathe him as ‘McGreedy’.

He’s the dictionary definition of an upward failure, having driven business after business into the ground at a sideways profit to himself. His one truly successful enterprise, a high street competitor for the likes of H&M and Zara, only stays in the black through a combination of creative bookkeeping and soulless exploitation of Sri Lankan factory workers. He’s a blight on not just couture but the world, and Winterbottom takes devious pleasure in slowly meting out a comeuppance as the mogul celebrates his 60th birthday with a lavish blowout in Mykonos.

The ruins dotting the Greek island inspire McCreadie’s biographer Nick (David Mitchell) to quote the famous line from ‘Ozymandias’, but of course the ultrawealthy don’t have the self-awareness to worry about despair when looking upon their mighty works. Like so many horrible bosses, McCreadie prefers to issue unrealistic demands and let his underlings figure out how to make the impossible into the possible, starting with the massive amphitheatre he needs whipped up in a jiffy. He intends it as a monument to Gladiator, his favourite film; it will soon morph into a symbol of hubris, a word Nick notes comes from the Greeks.

That’s where the Syrian refugees hunkered down on the adjacent stretch of public beach come in. Winterbottom’s critiques become more pointed as he introduces a political dimension that sticks McCreadie right in the middle of the immigration crisis. He essentially conscripts them into slavery through bribery that turns to deception, at which point the party, teetering on the brink of calamity, starts to tip over. If only the comedic touches could attain the Armando Iannucci levels of vitriolic hilarity they’re shooting for, even with Veep writer Sean Gray doing touch-ups.

Most of the best bits go to MacCreadie’s ex-wife (Isla Fisher) and pale Oedipal son (Asa Butterfield), as Coogan largely plays the straight man while sniping the one-liners served to him. Other sub-plots eat up time without yielding any belly-busting moments, such as the reality TV crew following around McCreadie’s family or the lunges at pathos through an underling (Dinita Gohil) with a personal connection to the inhumane factory conditions in the developing world.

Winterbottom keeps his mind on his money, dropping the hammer during a credit sequence that rattles off shocking statistics about the continuing abuse of factory workers and metastasising of income inequality. It’s a righteous fury, but by that point it’s also the main thing this often trifling film has going for it. McCreadie learns the hard way that some things can’t be bought; the catharsis of that particular lesson amounts to its own kind of entertainment, less outright uproarious than satisfying.

Published 19 Feb 2020

Tags: Isla Fisher Michael Winterbottom Sophie Cookson Steve Coogan

Anticipation.

Every third Winterbottom picture turns out well, and we’re just about due.

Enjoyment.

Greed is good, but not great.

In Retrospect.

It’s mainly the teeth that stay with you.

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