- Katherine McLaughlin
- 11 October 2019
LFF 2019: Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan reteam for an enjoyable but insufficiently scathing satire
'I don't want them at my party,' whines fashion tycoon Sir Richard 'Greedy' McCreadie (Steve Coogan, turning in a performance of typical gusto as an obnoxious arsehole) when he finds Syrian refugees camped out on a Mykonos beach, right by the amphitheatre he has had built for his lavish 60th birthday celebrations. Michael Winterbottom's pointed satire is part Greek tragedy and part takedown of the super-rich, who manipulate an already rigged system for gain while gambling with people's lives.
Though it never explicitly states it, the film takes obvious inspiration from the Arcadia Group's Philip Green, once known as 'King of the High Street'. David Mitchell takes on the role of official biographer to McCreadie, with the narrative following a rich-to-richer arc. As he goes behind the scenes of a wealthy clan things get increasingly dark, with the film inserting snippets of parliamentary testimony and flashbacks to dodgy business deals. McCreadie's monstrous family include his financially savvy ex (Isla Fisher), his son (Asa Butterfield), daughter (Sophie Cookson), trophy wife (Shanina Shaik) and mother (Shirley Henderson, under prosthetics for much of the duration). Asim Chaudhry also appears as a lion tamer.
As a comedy, it's enjoyably funny but never feels clever enough to be truly scathing. Winterbottom names and shames companies and celebrities who are complicit in furthering the capitalist nightmare. He's clearly seething at the state of the nation but takes aim at too many targets; reality TV, tax evasion, sweatshops and the migration crisis all get a look in but Winterbottom uses certain characters as plot devices rather than investing them with their own humanity. This is especially galling in the case of a Sri Lankan-born employee (played by Dinita Gohil) with a tragic backstory. The material is undoubtedly blood-boiling but, in its imperfect execution, Greed ends up feeling like an opportunity missed.
Screening on Wed 9, Thu 10 and Sun 13 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. General release from Fri 21 Feb.