October 10, 2019 | UK Film Review
Directed by #MichaelWinterbottom
Film review by Nathanial Eker
With a message bound to cause reconsiderations in choice of clothes realtor, Greed is a bombastic indictment of the heartless ultra-wealthy and the deeply corrupt fashion industry. Michael Winterbottom shows a talent for portraying the unfathomable aspects of the human condition, (though there’s an upsetting amount of precedent to work with). His thoughtful satire, Greed ultimately preaches an important message of awareness as he bravely refuses to sugar-coat the ambivalence of disgustingly wealthy fashionistas towards their underprivileged workers. A regrettably unfocused narrative leaves the film with a messy structure, but it nonetheless remains provocative, insightful, and entertaining.
Sir Richard McCreadie (Coogan) is a billionaire conman and bully. He owns a number of fashion businesses, swindled by his brutish negotiation tactics and mad pursuit of the pound; a love chased with more vigour than an ABBA obsessed bank robber. Gree- err, McCreadie has come under scrutiny for a recent closure of a chain, resulting in the mass redundancy of thousands. Clearly, the best thing to do to regain public favour is to organise a lavish 60th birthday party in Mykonos complete with amphitheatre, gladiators, Coldplay, and one angry lion. Meanwhile, biographer Nick Morris (Mitchell) is tasked with interviewing McCreadie’s friends, family, and workers for testimonials for his new book.
From the moment we’re introduced to McCreadie his parallels to former BHS owner Phillip Green are immediately apparent. Coogan channels his persona like a high street medium, dazzling with near unrecognisable arrogance as he spits sanctimonious soliloquies with a Shakespearean zest. Not an ounce of humanity is offered, as Winterbottom’s damning assault of the bourgeois creates a protagonist who’s as obnoxious as he is comical. Quite the opposite is the good-hearted Nick, played by David Mitchell who barely musters a decibel of emphasis to his rather wet dialogue. Essentially playing himself, Mitchell’s Nick stands in stark contrast to the obtuse frivolousness of the upper elite, but he’s ultimately more plot pusher than interesting insider.
Relative newcomer Dinita Gohil, on the other hand leads a compelling supporting cast with a performance that grounds the eccentricities of the satirical plot back to a humane reality. Equally brilliant is Manolis Emmanouel, a real-life Syrian refugee playing a variation of himself, who received well-deserved applause at the London Film Festival screening. The refugee crisis is one of many social issues in Winterbottom’s sights; animal cruelty, reality television, and overpriced celebrities are all ripped to shreds by his vitriolic wit. However, despite dialogue sharper than a lion’s claw, these elements muddle the narrative, allowing for less focus on the core message; the abuse of third world workers by major fashion houses.
The script is remarkably the film’s paramount asset, yet also its greatest obstacle. A consistent wit shines throughout and the finale is nothing less than wish fulfilment of the director’s sarcastically macabre mind. However, time period hopping and disparate transition effects clash with the semi-mockumentary style. Winterbottom is undeniably fantastic with actors, who almost all walk the narrow line between realism and absurdism. However, the lack of a sense of place or consistent focus in favour of tackling unrelated social issues damage Greed’s sense of structure and style.
With that said, as the film draws to its close at around one hour forty-five, its conclusion reaffirms its intentions with shocking pragmatism. A hard-hitting documentary section brings the farcical piece to a gloomily realistic conclusion explaining the disturbing facts, holding little back. Regardless of narrative discrepancies and a disorganised structure, Greed shows its colours as a vitally important film within its final five minutes. Its political message is one of immediacy, imploring viewers not to forget it within five minutes of leaving the cinema. Through biting satire and fantastically silly dialogue, Greed ultimately makes an unfunny yet vital statement; consider where your new pair of jeans are from and who might be dying to make them.