Whereas American films like The Big Short tackled ideas of ethics, money and unscrupulous business dealings, director Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan’s take on fast fashion and the people behind it, feels heavy on the frills and light on message.
Coogan is Sir Richard McCreadie, a Richard Branson type operating in England—though he is perhaps more evil. Coogan’s billionaire mogul built his empire on shady banking deals, sweatshop labor and the idea that image is more important than reality, an ethos his ex-wife (Isla Fisher) and reality star daughter (Sophie Cookson) subscribe to as well. If it sounds Trumpian, it surely is, though it’s notable that Coogan’s McCreadie doesn’t seem as idiotic as our president, maybe just as money-grubbing (which is honestly so much worse).
In the lead-up to McCreadie’s 60th birthday, a lavish, multi-day party is planned in Greece. But it’s not just celebratory, as we learn in flashbacks to a government hearing during which McCreadie feels he was humiliated. The party is meant to reassert his position as a powerful man, and to send a message to his contemporaries—if only something, anything, would go right. Everything from Syrian refugees, unavailable celebrity guests, nosy biographers and lackluster lions seem to be conspiring against McCreadie, and as we watch his party shut down, we begin to learn firsthand why many of his employees and former partners have dubbed him “Greedy” McCreadie.
Greed works well when it leans into dry British humor, and Coogan certainly has a way about him that lends itself to a rich asshole character. All around him, however, is chaos, and not just in the plot, but in the jarring back and forth pacing that can’t seem to help the film decide whether it’s a comedy or a drama. When done well, so-called dramedy can be divine, when done like this, no characters get proper enough development for an audience to build any sort of feelings about them.
Toward the end, some heartbreaking facts about the fashion industry flash across the screen in text, and though this is certainly valuable, they feel like an afterthought. The rest of Greed feels cobbled together despite a few big laughs and a shocking ending that is unexpected but solemnly hilarious.
+Coogan's always great; hysterical when it works
-Too many characters; too much fat
Directed by Winterbottom
With Coogan, Fisher and Cookson
Violet Crown, R, 104 min.