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Fri09252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The ever-reliable pairing of director Michael Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan hits a speed bump with Greed, the weakest movie this duo has produced.

The Winterbottom-Coogan combo has now been responsible for seven films, with such winners as the many “Trip” movies, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and, my personal favorite, 24 Hour Party People. When I heard they were working on a satirical film about the fashion world and the upper class, with Coogan headlining as a shifty millionaire, I said: “Sign me up!”

Sadly, the result, written and directed by Winterbottom, is a muddled mess with only a few laughs and no true sense of purpose. It starts as a sort of fictional biopic—the making of fashion mogul Sir Richard McCreadie (Coogan), who rises to power by buying up struggling clothes businesses and spinning them for dollars through bankruptcies and other manipulations. He steps on a lot of faces on his way to the top.

Problem No. 1 is there’s nothing at all surprising or engaging about McCreadie or his rise to power. Coogan portrays the character through varying ages (a couple of other actors portray him at his youngest), and he seems to be going for a mixture of Donald Trump and Coogan’s own Alan Partridge character. He sports big white teeth and a tan, not unlike a certain cranky president.

The script basically calls for Coogan to be a real asshole. We see him buying people out with no regard for their feelings, and chastising well-meaning employees in public. There’s no reason to care about this guy, whether in flashback or the present day. It would help if he were nastily funny, but few moments come off as funny, so McCreadie is basically just an unpleasant experience.

In the present, McCreadie is trying to put together a 60th birthday celebration featuring celebrities, a Roman Colosseum replica and a real lion. Celebrities tend to make a big deal of their 60th (Howard Stern not long ago threw a big star-studded bash), and maybe Winterbottom was trying to poke a little fun at those types of parties. Other than one funny joke featuring a George Michael impersonator, the whole party premise is a dud.

Toward the end of the film, Winterbottom decides the movie isn’t really a comedy about greedy jerks at all: Instead, it’s a scathing take on the fashion industry and the way it employs underprivileged people worldwide for menial sums. Well, that’s what Winterbottom apparently wishes it was. The change in tone—including a violent, WTF? ending that comes out of nowhere—reeks of desperate storytelling. It’s like Winterbottom set out to make a satire in his usual way, but then decided his film needed to be The Big Short of fashion-industry movies at the last minute.

Too bad. Coogan is almost always fun onscreen, so it’s a real task to make him a bore. Isla Fisher shows up as McCreadie’s wife, and their unorthodox relationship could’ve been the basis of its own movie, but it gets little screen time here. A subplot involving McCreadie’s biographer feels like it was supposed to be substantial, but it comes off as something that got lost in the editing room. There are other characters in this movie that suddenly appear, but the script has done nothing to justify the audience having any feelings about them.

Entertainers who work together as much as Winterbottom and Coogan do are bound to lay an egg every now and then—and Greed is indeed a stinker, but I have a feeling they will rise above and entertain again. They are already working on another movie, and I’m sure there will be a couple after that before they are done. Thankfully, none of those will contain the further adventures of Sir Richard McCreadie.

Greed opens Friday, March 6, at several valley theaters.

Published in Reviews

In The Look of Love, Steve Coogan reunites with his frequent director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) to tell the true story of Paul Raymond, Britain’s version of Hugh Hefner, who became one of Britain’s richest men before his death in 2008.

I knew nothing of this man before watching the film—which seems strange, considering he was so huge in England. He opened England’s first strip club, and followed that with soft-porn magazines and real-estate properties until he amassed a huge fortune.

Coogan plays Raymond as a likable-enough sort—even though he had a wandering eye and a lack of commitment when it came to relationships. Anna Friel (Land of the Lost) plays Jean, Raymond’s long-suffering wife, who had no problem with his dalliances—until he actually picks up and leaves. Imogen Poots is memorable as Debbie, Raymond’s daughter and the reason he became reclusive after her death from a drug overdose in 1992.

Winterbottom captures the essence of the ’60s and ’70s just fine, and Coogan is rather enjoyable as Raymond. Perhaps that’s one of the problems with the film: It seems like Raymond must’ve been a much lousier person than this film portrays him to be.

The Look of Love is a good-looking movie with great acting performances, but it just scratches the surface.

The film is available on demand and online via sources, including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing