Gere’s Risky ‘Arbitrage’; College Class Warfare: Movies

Richard Gere in "Arbitrage." This film is Nicholas Jareck's feature directing debut. Photographer: Myles Aronowitz/Roadside Attractions via Bloomberg

Nothing is risk-free in Nicholas Jarecki’s Wall Street amorality tale “Arbitrage,” a slick financial thriller that pivots on bad decisions and ethical bankruptcy.

Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a respected billionaire hedge-fund oracle whose family-run firm is a step or two from a lucrative sale. Miller is sweating out the days, terrified that $400 million in cooked books will surface, souring the company-saving deal.

The last thing he needs is scrutiny. Well, that along with a late-night car crash on a sleepy upstate New York road that kills the mistress in his passenger seat.

Panicked at the thought of financial and extramarital exposure, Miller bolts. He enlists aid and a car ride from Jimmy (Nate Parker), the son of Miller’s late, longtime chauffeur.

Young, black, broke and with a criminal record, Jimmy is easy bait for the working stiff detective (Tim Roth) determined to snare fat cat Miller.

With the law closing in, his wife (Susan Sarandon) getting wise and his doting, business-savvy daughter (Brit Marling) unwittingly tangled in the looming scandal, Miller’s Brioni necktie might as well be a noose.

Woefully Unconvincing

How (and whether) Miller gets out of the jam, and at what cost to the people and pawns around him, makes up the bulk of “Arbitrage.”

First-time director Jarecki does some unfancy maneuvering to get us from here to there, including a woefully unconvincing last-minute introduction of trial evidence.

Arbitrage” is on firmer ground in the cultural details that mark and separate classes and races of New York in the 21st century. Two brief, remarkable scenes make the point: Jimmy is swept up by cops like litter from the street, while Sarandon’s regal society matron firmly, if politely, dismisses the inquisitive detective by insisting he make an appointment.

Sarandon, in fact, is so good as the not-so-blind billionaire’s wife that we can only lament her relative lack of screen time. Parker suggests a bite to Jimmy that the script won’t acknowledge, and Marling, as the Ivanka-like daughter, is cool if a bit stiff. The only real dud in the cast is Laetitia Casta as the Soho gallery mistress, a cocaine-snorting whiner whose claim on Miller’s heart must be taken on faith.

Gere, though, is marvelous in his meatiest role in years. Much will be made of whether his tycoon is sufficiently punished, but no prosecutor in his right mind would risk putting such a brilliant conniver in front of a jury.

Arbitrage,” from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **** (Evans)

‘Liberal Arts’

Jesse (Josh Radnor), the boy-man at the center of “Liberal Arts,” is a 35-year-old book lover with fluffy hair and sad-puppy eyes who hasn’t been happy since he left his Ohio college.

He goes back for a party -- his favorite professor, Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins), is retiring -- and falls for Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year-old student. Then he agonizes over whether she’s age appropriate.

Though Jesse doesn’t feel like a grown-up, he’s terrified of getting older. Given the movie’s other adults, you can see why.

His old teacher Peter is undone by the prospect of retirement. In the movie’s most disquieting scene, he begs his department head to take him back, alternately groveling and lashing out.

Mrs. Robinson

Another of Jesse’s former professors, Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney), picks him up at a bar.

She turns out to be a frosty Mrs. Robinson who kicks him out after having sex with him, snapping, “Put some armor around that gooey little heart of yours.”

Women just seem to want Jesse, confused and disconsolate as he is. A pretty clerk (Elizabeth Reaser) in his Brooklyn bookstore is also trying to catch his eye.

I would have enjoyed Radnor’s adorable zhlub more if I hadn’t been so aware that he also wrote and directed the movie. It feels like a love letter to himself.

“Liberal Arts,” from IFC Films, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ** (Seligman)

‘10 Years’

“10 Years” proves what we already know: Other people’s reunions aren’t much fun.

Filled to capacity with Young Hollywood (though not young enough; “15 Years” would have been more accurate), “10 Years” tags along with a large group of pals attending their high school reunion.

Dialogue, much of it seemingly improvised, tells the backstories: Jake (Channing Tatum) is trying to work up the nerve to propose to his girlfriend (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Channing’s real life wife), though he seems hung up on a school sweetheart (Rosario Dawson).

Cully (Chris Pratt) is a not-so-reformed bully with a drinking problem, Reeves (Oscar Isaac) is a rock star who just wants to be loved, and Marty (Justin Long) isn’t the big city success he pretends to be.

That’s barely a third of the cast, which also includes, among others, Max Minghella, Kate Mara, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty.

Writer/director Jamie Linden fosters an easy rapport among the actors, but a heavy wistfulness for lost youth is more than a little hard to take from this collection of fit and unlined lookers.

“10 Years,” from Anchor Bay Films and Boss Media, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Evans)

What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Very Good
**     Good
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Lewis Lapham and New York weekend.

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