The Movie Waffler New Release Review - FAIR PLAY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - FAIR PLAY

Fair Play review
A young couple's relationship is tested when one of them receives a promotion at their hedge fund.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Chloe Domont

Starring: Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan, Sebastian de Souza, Rich Sommer

Fair Play poster

Nobody wants to work in a toxic workplace but such spaces sure make for juicy onscreen drama. How dull would Glengarry Glen Ross be if the real estate salesmen treated each other with courtesy and respect? Perhaps the last industry where toxicity is still fostered and perhaps encouraged is that of high finance. Debut writer/director Chloe Domont's Fair Play is set in the sort of New York hedge fund firm that I'm obliged to describe as cutthroat, where the boss can call a female employee "a dumb fucking bitch" and get away with it because she just cost him $50 million, and because she knows a hefty cheque is on the way if she makes up for her error.

Fair Play review

Working at said firm are analysts Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) and Emily (Phoebe Dynevor). They're also lovers but have been keeping their relationship secret as it's against company policy. Menstrual blood has been used as a portent of doom in horror movies, and it serves the same purpose here. Domont opens her film with Luke and Emily's bathroom sex at a wedding cut short when the red mist descends, leaving their outfits bloodied and forcing them to retreat out the window, Emily accepting Luke's marriage proposal along the way.

When their project manager is fired, Emily is thrilled to hear talk of Luke getting the position. To her surprise, her boss, Campbell (a terrifying Eddie Marsan), gives her the promotion. Initially Luke does his best to be supportive, but his male pride eats away at him. Attempts on Emily's part to advance Luke's career backfire, because unlike the talented Emily who worked her way into the role, Luke is a liability who acquired his job through family connections.

Fair Play review

Watching Luke and Emily's relationship untangle (quite literally, as the tangled lovers' bodies we see early on give way to sleeping in separate rooms) is fascinating. For someone who has never watched Bridgerton, Dynevor is a revelation here. The role requires her to undergo a significant change in personality, from supportive wife-to-be to ruthless manager, and the young English star makes it look effortless with subtle shifts in body language. Ehrenreich similarly goes from a sympathetic figure who seems to be trying his best at first, only to succumb to an entitlement whose flames are fanned by his obsession with a Jordan Peterson-esque motivational speaker (Patrick Fischler in a subplot that could have used a little more development).

With its cold corporate sheen, Fair Play might be mistaken for a product of the late '80 or early '90s, a time when an adult oriented water cooler movie like this would have been released in cinemas rather than buried on Netflix. Despite being shot in Serbia on a relatively small budget, the film never fails to convince us we're in the sort of glossy New York we might find in an Adrian Lyne movie.

Fair Play review

Creaks begin to appear in a final act that sees Luke do something that seems contradictory to his male pride, and from that point the movie begins to hammer home its theme, as though worried we couldn't have figured it out by that point. I can't help feel there's a better version of this story centred on a gay couple, thus avoiding the tired battle of the sexes shtick it falls back on in the final act (the closing scene is a knock-off of a George Cukor movie from 80 years ago, which tells you how played out this sort of thing is at this point). Along with the gender divide, Luke and Emily are from different social classes, but the movie seems barely interested in exploring this particular facet. I guess in the current climate haves vs have-nots isn't as enticing a card as girls against boys.

Fair Play is on Netflix from October 6th.

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