The Best Actor race is getting crowded this week, with Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs and now, Richard Gere in Arbitrage. The timely pic is a chilling illustration of the way powerful people use other people to get what they want out of life and usually win. The screenplay is flawless; no character gets the short shrift.  Every line crackles with Mamet-like intensity.  It will surely be among the best original screenplays this year.

The film feels particularly poignant now, with an election that is positioning the rich against the middle class. In Arbitrage, integrity — laid squarely on the antihero (Richard Gere) — is conquered by the better game. Because the script is played out like a chess game, every move is deliberate.  I love movies like this because I know that a couple more viewings will reveal patterns I missed the first time.

Writer/Director Nicholas Jarecki has mastered the golden rule of showing, not telling, when it comes to revealing the motivations of the characters in the film. Those who have a moral center must eventually suffer from one man’s thirst for power. It isn’t that Gere’s character is bad guy, particularly, but he plays the rotten game the way it needs to be played in order for him to come out on top. He appears to have a conscience and yet he must act in conflict with it. Gere pulls this off beautifully, so much so that we are never really sure who or what he is.

Nearly stealing the show from Gere is newcomer Nate Parker as Jimmy.  Parker has simmering charisma and is another character who takes a while to get to know. Jarecki has layered each of them with a backstory, enough so that you know them, even down to the throwaway role of the judge.  But the dynamic between Parker and Gere is really what drives this film. Sarandon and Brit Marling (as Gere’s daughter) are also pivotal, memorable characters.

Gere is on fire — walking the fine line between desperation and total control, he seems to embody the power elite on Wall Street. 90% successful, 10% on the brink of disaster. Of course he’ll get away with murder, practically, but this movie is about the 10%.  By the end of the film, it feels like vertigo — you’ve just gone too high with someone who has no idea that there even are limits to corruption. All that matters in his world is that he gets away with it.

Hopefully Jarecki is going to be around for a while — he joins Behn Zeitlin, J.C. Chandor and Lena Dunham as the most promising young filmmakers of their generation so far.  Keep those doors open, Hollywood. This is the kind of talent we need to foster.

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  • Jake G!!!

    i hope Meryl or Tommy make it into the Oscar race for Hope Springs. Everything Meryl does from here on out better get nominated! She deserves it.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    LOLOLOL hella misplaced weak ass comment^^

  • Jordan

    Richard Gere is one of the most underrated actors working today. The fact that he has never been nominated for an Oscar despite several legendary performance (American Gigolo, Chicago, The Hoax, Unfaithful, etc.) is truly criminal. Let’s hope this will finally be his year.

  • Tye-Grr

    IMHO, none of his work (or roles) should be considered “legendary”. All of the above you named were good performances, maybe even a few great ones, but nothing anywhere near “legendary”. He’s yet to give a WOW! type of performance. Maybe this will be it.

  • tony r

    Highly doubt Jones is getting a nom for Hope Springs. I’m sure he won’t even be “in the mix” come November. It’s not one of those performances and not one of those movies, and the buzz around it is soft to begin with.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Does Tommy Lee Jones have a meaty part on Lincoln? I don’t even know who he’s playing. I’m a super fan of his. Best Supporting Actor for Lincoln? Maybe?

  • I don’t know what this is, but he should have been nominated a ways back for BROOKLYN’S FINEST. Probably his best performance. Great movie. I saw it at the time, but no one was biting. Made me sad. Still does.

  • Winston

    “Unfaithful” was his finest performance! I thought he was superb in “Pretty Woman”!!! Great in “Primal Fear.”

    Shoulda got the nod for “Chicago” in 2002 over Michael Caine for the Quiet American in my opinion

  • julian the emperor

    Richard Gere is the definition of a solid, good actor, that has never exactly achieved greatness. Maybe this is the time? I hope so, I find him likable and sympathetic (based on the roles he takes on; he is not merely phoning it in like a Harrison Ford).

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Terrible actor. Disgrace even.

    But sympathetic he is, like Julian said. Just with zero acting talent.

  • jb1228

    I’ve never cared much for Richard Gere and his acting. I’ve always seen him as the weak or distracting link, but I admire his longevity in the business and like what I saw in the Arbitrage trailer and am hopeful.

  • chrisw

    Lumping Dunham with the others is a major stretch. Just my opinion.

  • Joao Mattos

    To me, in the last decade there is no other actor on Hollywood who improves so much his acting while achieving age maturity. None that Gere did before recent years, not in his best (but not awesome) perfomances (“Power”, a very underrated S.Lumet, “Internal Affairs”, “Dr T. and the Women”), that somehow compensates the worst ones (“Sommersby”, “King David”, “First Knight”, “Cotton Club”, the dreadful and grotesque “Final Analysis”, one of the most dumb movies of the history of cinema), shines as his perfomances in “Chicago”, “The Hunting Party”, and specially “The Hoax”. Actually, IMO, as Clifford Irving, he gave us one of the best male perfomances of Hollywood in the first decade of the 21th century.

    So, great hopes for “Arbitrage”

  • Gere rules. C’mon, Looking For Mr. Goodbar? He was a beast.

  • Alec

    The high point of Gere’s career remains Days of Heaven – it wasn’t a ‘wow’ performance, it was better than that. Quietly powerful, soulful, introspective. Like many of the great (and often overlooked) performances in Malick’s films, it was work so unshowy most viewers don’t stop to fully appreciate it. But like the film itself, it is irreducibly human and timeless.

    I do believe him to be a good character actor in general though – always been underrated, even in relatively forgettable mainstream fare.

    Looking forward to this.

  • Bennett

    Like Kevin Costner, he’s a movie star. He’s not a great actor. And that’s fine by me. I’d watch Susan Sarandon do the New York Times crossword.

  • steve50

    I agree that Goodbar showed much promise before he got sidetracked from character actor to movie star (the curse of good looks). His performances are almost always good and I don’t think his range is fully appreciated. He has become the anchor for the audience in most of his films (Primal Fear and Unfaithful, for example) but I prefer him on the fringe, so this might turn out to be just right for him.

  • Pat

    Hope you’re right. Have to agree with Jordan and Joao that Gere was excellent in The Hoax. (He was my favourite in 2007 until There Will Be Blood came along… hard to argue with that choice, but he still should have been nominated.)

  • Mel

    In that picture he looks like he had that plastic surgery thing older hollywood men are doing to their eyes that make them look awful and more like old ladies. Perhaps this has added something to the complexity of his performances.

    When I was a kid he moved me in An Officer and A Gentleman, but I haven’t seen that since I was probably 15 so I can’t trust that call right now.

  • Jake G!!!

    I dont enjoy Richard Geres acting, its pretty boring. Chicago was his only good performance in my opinion.

  • evelyn garver

    Gere is entertaining but rarely riveting. I also think UNFAITHFUL was his best performance. He would have to be seen as extraordinary by the Academy because he is not really on their radar. It would also have to be a weak year. I know you cant’t compare season to season logically, but my sense is that if the two fabulous Michaels [Shannon and Fassbender] can’t get nominated, it’s a long reach for Gere.

  • Yogsss

    I love Gere so much, I think is time for him to get some well deserved recognition.

  • Jojy John Alphonso

    His anti-China speech has kept him out of Oscar reckoning for quite sometime now. Hope 2012 is the year that defines a new Gere.

    He should’ve won for Chicago though. There is no doubt about that and it’s a pity that he wasn’t even nominated.

  • Argonaut

    I saw Arbitrage a couple nights ago at a TIFF sneak preview and it is really, really good. An 80’s-style flick with great writing, slick directing and even better acting. Gere, Sarandon and Roth are all outstanding, as are the rest of the cast. Not just a possible Oscar nod for Gere but for Roth and Sarandon too.

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