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Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsTIFF 2019: Greed Review

selfseriousnessSeptember 19, 201948/100
Starring
Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, Asa Butterfield
Writer
Michael Winterbottom
Director
Michael Winterbottom
Rating
14A (Canada)
Running Time
100 minutes
Release Date
n/a
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Greed is a messy satire that fails to get its point across, offering plenty of silly distractions and hammering you over the head with a bland lead performance from Steve Coogan.

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

The 2010s have been a goldmine for directors trying their hand at screeds against capitalist greed. In 2013 alone, we had Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, and Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain, all of which are great films. With every year stacked with great dissections of this subject, it makes sense that other talented directors would want to throw their hat in the race. Now we have Greed, the new film from Michael Winterbottom. Let’s just say he’s no Scorsese, and he isn’t much of a Korine either.

Greed opens with Richard McCreedy (Coogan) but often people like to change his last name to McGreedy. He’s a fashion mogul, one of the richest people in the world, and an absolute fanatic for the film Gladiator. So much so that his ex wife (Fisher) and son (Butterfield) can quote it from moment to moment. McCreedy is celebrating his 60th birthday on a small island, which is part celebration and part image fabricating. Being rich isn’t as much what you have, it’s more what people think you have. McCreedy needs to keep his image as broad and giant as it always has been, after a recent run in with bankruptcy.

At the same time, the island is a public one, and Syrian refugees are dotting the beach below McCreedy’s newly built spot. Tensions rise, things unspool in a messy series of things that’s almost always entertaining, if not awkward and thudding. This series of unfortunate events kicks off with a few strands. Cutting between these strands of plot and flashbacks that shows McCreedy’s rags to riches tales (complete with a London Calling needle drop!), director Winterbottom doesn’t have much in terms of control of tone.

Framed in the center of it all is Steve Coogan’s bland performance of an egotistical billionaire. McCreedy is ruthless, but he lacks the charm that would usually make you interested in a maniacal character like this. Over the course of the film, it becomes more and more evident that Greed is hammering you over the head. Luckily, he’s supplemented by interesting performances that range in quality across the giant cast. The MVP of this cast is somehow Butterfield, playing to the smarminess that has always led him to be heavily miscast. Fisher also tries her best, reviving her character from The Beach Bum with a similar lack of self-awareness.

What holds back Greed is a messiness in storytelling. Jumping from McCreedy’s history to the story of the immigrants in his factories, the ambitious here aim high and attempt to take down the corporations that pay workers less than living wages. The problem is what you end up remembering the wrong things among the film’s other scattershot subjects. The most striking moment is sadly when the film ends with a series of blunt statistics pointing to wage inequality across the globe today. Without that, the entire film would just be a dense satire, mean spirited and helping no one. 

*still courtesy of TIFF*


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