Sundance Film Festival

ARBITRAGE hopes to sell high at Sundance '12

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “arbitrage” is “the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies.” I don’t really understand what that means, so I am providing an alternate definition for the intelligence impaired. ARBITRAGE is “a dramatic thriller set in the world of high finance that is also one of the most buzzed about titles at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.” That’s a lot easier to understand, right? I think so. Let’s give Mr. Merriam and Lord Webster or whoever it is a ring and tell them it’s time to update that book.

The film is the first fiction feature from Nicholas Jarecki, brother of Andrew Jarecki (CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS) and Eugene Jarecki (WHY WE FIGHT). It stars Richard Gere as a billionaire hedge fund manager desperate to sell his company before someone discovers his mountain of fraud and misdeeds. Sounds like the dark sequel to PRETTY WOMAN we never got but always wanted. Or not. In this clip from the film, Gere’s Robert Miller works very hard to try to cover something up. What could it be? I’m betting it’s a Julia Roberts-ish hooker with a heart of gold.

In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Jarecki explained that the idea for ARBITRAGE came to him in 2009 as he read about the financial crisis and began imagining what a man at the very top of that world would do when faced with collapse. “I knew a lot about finance since I owned my own business and both of my parents were at one time commodities traders,” he told Filmmaker. “From there I got lucky because the story began to write itself.”

He also got lucky with a cast that is one of the best at Sundance this year. Brit Marling, last year’s Sundance’s It Girl from films like ANOTHER EARTH and SOUND OF MY VOICE, plays Gere’s daughter and employee — you can watch the two of them together in a clip from the film hosted on EntertainmentWeekly.com. They’re joined by Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Nate Parker, and even — at least according to IMDb — EXORCIST director William Friedkin. Maybe Gere’s character blames all his mistakes on demonic possession or something.

Couple ARBITRAGE with the housing market collapse chronicled in THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, and you’re just one movie away from officially declaring a Sundance ’12 trend: movies about the white people problems of the super-rich. I think we can all relate to how much those things suck.

ARBITRAGE premieres Saturday, January 21st at 6:30pm at the Eccles Theatre. For a full list of festival playdates, go to Sundance.org.