Running time: 104 minutes
Written and Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Featuring: Steve Coogan, David Mitchell, Asa Butterfield, Dinita Gohil, Sophie Cookson, Jonny Sweet, Asim Chaudhry, Shirley Henderson, and Isla Fisher
Samantha: “No one reads the Mail Online, it’s cleavage clickbait!”
Sir Richard McCreadie: “Yeah, except I’M the tit this time.”
Released on DVD is the latest collaboration between director Michael Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan in the black comedy/satire “Greed” (2020) which features at its core a billionaire loosely based on embattled retail baron Sir Philip Green who has been mired in scandal and apparently subjected people working in his business empire to abuse and other inappropriate behaviour that was at times racial, physical and sexual. When you read about Green or see him in the news the ability to skewer him, is lifestyle and to a certain extent his friends becomes quite obvious, so to people like Winterbottom and Coogan it is just low hanging fruit.
“Greed” is a satire which means Winterbottom has taken a familiar story and genre, making fun of it through imitation, providing a comedic spin on serious issues. That means through humour Winterbottom and Co. are attempting to illustrate how and why Green needs to be exposed, not only him but the many like him who are committing actual crimes and getting away with it. The great thing is that the director and actor have almost made careers out of the genre making fun of everything from entire genres, to the famous and of course most famously themselves. They are experts at it, this movie only cements that fact.
“Greed” takes a non-linear approach to the life of Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie, a billionaire fashion mogul, with frequent flashbacks to his rise from relatively humble (though still affluent and privileged) circumstances as an outcast and rebellious student at an unnamed British public school, to his rise in the 1970s and 1980s as a powerful high-street fashion merchant, to his testimony at a recent government hearing on financial and ethical abuses within the fashion industry. It becomes clear that, despite McCreadie’s self-image as a hard-nosed and savvy businessman with multiple celebrity friends, much of his wealth is in fact based on ruthless exploitation, including a reliance on sweatshops in Southeast Asia for his fashion lines, tax avoidance, asset stripping and similar questionably ethical financial dealings.
I for one always look forward to any work by Michael Winterbottom who must be in the top five of greatest living English directors, there are few that could match not only his prolific output, but also his quality of work especially over multiple genres which is stunning in itself. Winterbottom often defies the genres in which he works, by either subverting them or pushing the limits in which they exist. He is a director that does not always succeed but when you watch his films as an audience member you know you are seeing his vision with little compromise. In “Greed” there is a definite point of view which is of course a liberal one, it also rallies against the rich and powerful something that has been occurring for the past few years with people like Green, Weinstein, Epstein and a host of others, this is definitely a film for the time we live in right now, both Coogan and Winterbottom recognise this.
When Steve Coogan began his career as a comic he was always able to harness whatever performance he required but these were almost always broad, however over the past ten years with better and more interesting projects coming his way his own acting ability has come to the fore which is exactly why he is able to carry off his performance in “Greed”. I actually think this one of Coogan’s better performances, he actually plays it quite straight letting the material speak for itself which means not a lot of his normal mannerisms, it works extremely well.
While it has been said “Greed” is reminiscent of recent films “The Big Short” (2015) and “Laundromat” (2019) for me it is more likened to the underrated and magnificent “Fast Food Nation” (2006) brilliantly directed by Richard Linklater, someone who has more in common with Winterbottom than either Steven Soderbergh or Adam McKay in terms of the kind of genre and movies he produces. I enjoyed “Greed” a lot, it ticks many boxes for me and it is great to think that the director and stars best work may be ahead of them.