Greed - a lecture and a half with about a laugh and a half
2 out of 5
Greed tells the story of self-made British billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie played by Alan Partridge, sorry, Steve Coogan, whose retail empire is in crisis. For 30 years he has ruled the world of retail fashion, bringing the high street to the catwalk and the catwalk to the high street. But after a damaging public inquiry, his image is tarnished. To save his reputation, he decides to bounce back with a highly publicised and extravagant party celebrating his 60th birthday on the Greek island of Mykonos.
I'm a fan of Michael Winterbottom. His 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People is a wonderful exploration of Manchester's music scene and it also starred Coogan. Over the years they have collaborated on many on-screen productions including Coogan's Trip series. Greed is their latest production which is an odd blend of satire and political awareness. It is a film with two themes and I'm not sure it knows which one to highlight and so it straddles two themes and is the poorer for it. It's messy.
Sir Richard McCreadie (rhymes with greedy) is not a nice person. He gets involved in the clothes business, the rag trade and builds a multi-billion pound High Street empire. He travels to Sri Lanka and other countries to source cheap garments while stripping the assets of the very stores he has bought to sell the clothes. The film shows some of the impacts of the fast-fashion trade together with McCreadie's vulgar excesses. The film also has a semi-documentary style and uses the perspective of a biographer, Nick (David Mitchell) who provides or creates the necessary exposition. He also acts as part of our conscience as he bears witness to McCreadie's behaviour and treatment of those around him.
Coogan is in good form although one can't help but feel these roles are easy for him to slip into. McCreadie has more than a little Partridge in him. McCreadie's wife, Samantha, is played by Isla Fisher and she is perfectly cast and brings the right blend of sexiness and indulgence to the character. Incidentally, her real-life husband, Sacha Baron-Cohen was originally slated to play McCreadie. Shanina Shaik plays Naoimi and she is uncomfortable with McCreadie's business practices and blames him for the death of her mother in a Sri Lankan factory. She is key to the ultimate events in this Greek tragedy.
There are a few laughs but, for me, not many of them landed as McCreadie is a not someone we can empathise with. That, and the exploitation theme serve to water down many of the laughs or deem them inappropriate. The statistics displayed over the end credits, while truly shocking, served to reinforce the feeling I was being preached at.