I confess this movie was not exactly what I expected from Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan. My favourite film collaboration these two have done is The Trip which is a very funny road trip movie that all should see if you haven’t. Greed, although full of absurdity and humour has a very serious message. Basically the message is that its time to cut capitalism and capitalists off at the knees. The sooner the better. Steve Coogan plays a hugely successful High Street billionaire who has made his fortune in the fashion industry but also by taking advantage of all the lack of rules and regulations that favour the rich. The main plot line is about his plans to celebrate his 60th birthday with a huge Roman Empire themed party on a beach in Greece including building a fake amphitheatre to host a gladiator fight with a real lion. Everyone is to dress up as Roman aristocrats or slaves and party all day and night. As preparations proceed over the days leading up to the party flashbacks take us back to his origins as a student in private school, his initial start financing of various fashion start ups and his realization that the way to make money in fashion is to take advantage of the poverty level wages and horrendous working conditions in countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar. We have scenes of Coogan facing down a parliamentary enquiry showing the impotence of our politicians to stop the abuse and we watch as Coogan abuses everyone around him as he marches relentlessly forward. David Mitchell of the Mitchell and Webb Look plays a writer who has been hired to write a sympathetic biography of Coogan’s character but who becomes increasingly horrified at what he learns about this ruthless capitalist ripping off everyone around him for his personal gain. Nonetheless like many others around Coogan he proceeds to do his job and paint a sympathetic picture of the man.
I know all this sounds extremely serious and scary but in fact Winterbottom manages to do all this with a brilliantly satirical script that keeps you laughing as you watch in horror at what is unfolding and it may be needless to say, but the lion who we visit several times in his cage during the film plays a key and cathartic role in the climactic scene. The closing credits include a series of statistics about the incredible inequality between the greedy rich and the very poor that the system we live in maintains and encourages. It helps give perspective to what you just watched. We were lucky to have Winterbottom and Coogan at the showing for a brief Q and A during which they emphasized the message of the film. Coogan and Michell were my two favourite actors in the film. I was particularly impressed by Mitchell who I have only seen in sketch comedy before but who showed some really acting depth. The rest of the cast are also great including a group of actual Syrian refugees who now settled in Greece were playing the role of recently arrived refugees occupying the beach where the party was to be held and really annoying Coogan by their presence.
This is movie I will watch again because the dialogue is rapid and full of wit. I missed some of it that I dearly want to catch on a second viewing. Great fun and a great message. I highly recommend this one to all.