Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage is a movie about serious things: corporate fraud and police corruption, adultery and manslaughter, race and class, the ways that husbands betray wives and fathers betray children. But it’s fundamentally a trifle, a nice little diversion, a chance for audiences to turn back the clock of recent economic history and root, against our better judgment, for the bad guys of high finance to keep the system on its feet.
The bad guy in question is Robert Miller (Richard Gere), a titan of the investment industry who resembles Bernie Madoff if Madoff resembled, well, Richard Gere. A lion in autumn, with a high-society wife (Susan Sarandon) and two golden twentysomething children, he’s poised to sell his investment firm to a bigger conglomerate in what looks like the capstone on a long and profitable career. Only his daughter and CFO (Brit Marling) has any doubts about the transaction: Given how well they’re doing and how much he seems to love the business, why, exactly, does he want to sell?