With a rollout soured by director Michael Winterbottom being pressured by Sony to make its end credits less political, Greed arrives with little question when it comes to its anti-corporatist credentials. What’s less sure is how well the film as a whole hangs together, though, with a lot of funny jokes working very hard to overcome a scattered plot and an emotional arc that never feels fully earned.
Playing a fictionalisation of high street fashion mogul Philip Green, Steve Coogan (with a wonderfully awful tan and fake teeth) leads Greed as Richard Macreadie, who is trying to restore his reputation with an all-star beach party on Mykonos for his 60th birthday. Though the island party is the centre of the film, a lot of the story is told through flashbacks to Macreadie’s varyingly successful business ventures and eventual legal troubles.
Coogan is clearly having an absolute blast, sinking his blindingly white teeth into the role with an infectious enthusiasm, and Isla Fisher and Asa Butterfield, as Macreadie’s wife and son, are also funny in their morally vacuous roles. David Mitchell earns reliable laughs as an ineffectual journalist, as do a litany of hilarious celebrity cameos.
Interrupting the comedy, though, are too many subplots of limited interest, and Winterbottom’s attempt to wring genuine emotion out of a Sri Lankan working family’s plight is half-baked, bordering on offensive. It doesn’t fit the film at all, instead feeling like a cheap way to make Greed more ‘serious’ without giving any of the Sri Lankan characters any personality.
For the most part, you’ll be perfectly entertained by Greed, and when it’s on, it’s very funny. It certainly needed more thought put into some of its messages, but an unsubtle excoriation of the venture capitalists who unthinkingly wreck lives and careers will always be fun.
CAST: Steve Coogan, David Mitchell, Isla Fisher, Asa Butterfield
DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom
WRITERS: Michael Winterbottom, Sean Gray
SYNOPSIS: A satire about the world of the super-rich.