British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom’s new film, Greed stars veteran Steve Coogan as Sir Richard McCreadie, a money and limelight craving business mogul. The satire aims to shed light on income inequality and corruption within the fashion retail world. In this elite-run industry, billionaires sit at the top while underpaid women in underdeveloped countries suffer, despite doing the real work.
The film follows McCreadie’s (Coogan) attempt to “plan” a star studded and at times, impossible, 60th birthday party. Only if “plan” meant bossing all your subordinates around with ridiculous and outlandish requests. All the while, McCreadie’s life is revealed through his many family members and colleagues, outlining his transformation from British boarding school student to “King” of a High street clothing empire. But as we know, being a king implies not following common law, and being “King” doesn’t necessarily mean people respect you.
Filmed primarily on the beautiful backdrop of Mykonos, Greece, the film attempts to be allegorical, showing the pitfalls of immense greed and lack of compassion. The party, fittingly themed as a mythic Gladiator party, opens the door for metaphors referring to Greco-Roman myths about family, power strife and (you guessed it) greed.
As the story unfolds to its unforeseen climax, we see how McCreadie’s corrupt and super-rich ways have infected his family and colleagues in ways unforeseen by the family members themselves. A strained father-son relationship, an emotionally disconnected reality TV star daughter and a broken money marriage to Samantha (Isla Fisher) are just a few of the many problems that don’t seem to concern Rich. We see a man completely enveloped in his own fame and fortune incapable of recognizing the world around him crumble to his own demise.
Despite being a conduit for this important satirical message, there are moments in Greed that connect and others that fall short. It delivers on the comedy side, with Coogan really showing his comedic chops and taking the reins here. At times he really shines (even more than his character’s fake teeth) with his witty insulting banter. Specifically, any sequence taking place at the DIY coliseum, that Rich is unrealistically tasking his workers with completing, is sure-fire comedy.
However, the movie feels bogged down by unexplained character connections and unsatisfying story arcs. We are introduced to characters whose importance is not fully explained until it’s really too late. The film’s focus suddenly shifts from what seems to be a story about McCreadie’s character journey to an assistant’s character journey and her manifestation of getting even. Without revealing much, it feels incredibly convenient that this SPECIFIC assistant, with her SPECIFIC backstory, is working for McCreadie at this very time and place.
I would like to praise the decision to cast a different actor as young Rich McCreadie (Jamie Blackley). This proves to be a fulfilling decision that enforces the timeline of the film. It not only feels believable, but it directly helps viewers buy into the crown jewel of the film: its main character. But to directly contradict this, they have Shirley Henderson, the actress portraying McCreadie’s Mother, play her at both young and old age.
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 Stars.
Michael Winterbottom delivers a beautifully shot and original new story that has all the right intentions, but falls short in terms of execution. There are certain aspects of Greed that can take the viewer out of the story as well, like the attempt to make Shirley Henderson look like a woman in her 80s with just a little prosthetics and a wig. Sure you’ll get some laughs from this quick flick, but it suffers from a story and characters that feel convoluted and slightly unexplained at the same time.
Overall this movie accomplishes the goal to make its audience laugh, but hits less hard than it feels it could have.