Review by Sean Boelman
With one of the most eclectic filmographies of any filmmaker working today, writer-director Michael Winterbottom (The Trip) is back at it again with Greed, a satirical look at wealth in modern society. Although it likely won’t win him any new converts, those already in tune with Winterbottom’s unique sense of humor will undoubtedly find plenty of laughs in this comedy.
The film tells the story of an infamous entrepreneur as he prepares for his 60th birthday celebration, the different parties involved reflecting back on his prosperous (and sometimes unethical) career. Admittedly, the movie is a structural mess, jumping between different time periods with very little sense of rhythm.
Much like many of Winterbottom’s other comedies, the film almost feels like a series of vignettes tied together by theme and character, though the narrative is even looser here. Still, the laughs come early and consistently enough for the movie to keep the audience’s interest. Audiences should be prepared to laugh at the absurdity of what they see on screen, particularly in the absolutely bonkers third act.
With a title like Greed, one can’t expect anything particularly subtle about the film’s messaging. For the entirety of its hour-and-forty-five-minute runtime, the movie lampoons the spending habits of the rich elite in a way that doesn’t feel too far from the truth. This is particularly the case because of the montage of real life facts showcased at the end of the film that tie the movie’s themes together.
Part of what is unique about this film is that there aren’t many likable characters in the movie, and those that are likable are mostly there to look sad for being exploited. However, Winterbottom pulls this off so well that the disgust that the viewer will feel towards these characters is just as effective as the sympathy one would normally feel for a traditional protagonist.
Steve Coogan is hilarious in his leading role, although the role didn’t require a whole lot more from him other than his usual schtick. Yet for fans of Coogan’s, this film is undeniably going to be a riot because it gives him plenty of material with which to work. The main standout in the supporting cast is Isla Fisher, who has some very funny scenes, although no one quite matches the hilarity of Coogan.
On a technical level, the movie does a good enough job of taking advantage of the picturesque setting of Greece (as Winterbottom’s films set in exotic locations always do) thanks to great cinematography by Giles Nuttgens. Apart from a few iffy CGI shots, the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at.
Greed may not be Michael Winterbottom’s most polished work, but it is still hilarious and sharply satirical. Though it isn’t as memorable as some of his other comedies, this is still a welcome entry into his increasingly large and diverse repertoire.
Greed is now playing in theaters.