After spending the past few projects together with Rob Brydon indulging in some of Europe’s finest restaurants, Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom dive into some satirical waters off the coast of Greece for their latest escapade with Greed, a rather unsubtle portrait of the mega-wealthy and the various conniving ways that they cheat the system for their own gain.
The film depicts the days leading up to the 60th birthday party of billionaire high-street fashion mogul Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie. Desperate to repair his reputation following bad press as a result of a few of his chains going bust and people losing their jobs, with McCreadie’s bank balance barely taking a hit, he’s planning on making this party one to remember. Following mostly from the perspective of McCreadie’s biographer, Nick (David Mitchell), Greed pieces together how this self-made billionaire came to be, with Nick talking to both those that know him and best, and those affected by his callous actions.
While Coogan and Winbterbottom have stated that McCreadie is predominantly inspired by Phillip Green (chairman of the Arcadia Group), he is pretty interchangeable for any multi-billionaire with a larger than life personality, and their fair share of controversies. This is not a film that is at all interested in playing its satire with much in the way of subtlety. The message won’t be lost on you as it goes into exposing the ways in which the mega rich use their position to cut corners and gain more wealth for themselves, while the people doing a lot of the actual work end up with poor pay or losing their job entirely. In McCreadie’s case, much of this comes from exploitation of workers in Sri Lankan factories.
The film makes sure it’s pretty blunt about its facts, even if the way in which they deliver them feels far too simplified and a little too convenient along the way. It makes for a scrappy experience, one which flies around the timeline of McCreadie’s career and the relationships in his life as Mitchell’s biographer interviews those closest to him. It’s a fairly uninspired structure, and while Mithcell as Nick does play the straight man in this mad world of the wealthy well enough, it all feels more perfunctory than anything else.
Where Greed is more successful is in its more over the top performances and the little moments of satire that are sprinkled around the McCreadie family. From his daughter shooting a ‘Made in Chelsea’-esque reality show that keeps going wrong, to his son being an attention-deprived evil genius in the making, there’s lots of little touches that add a lot of laughs and a bit of pathos to the proceedings. The highlights of the cast though are Coogan and Isla Fisher as his ex-wife. Both love the absurdity afforded to their larger than life characters, with both getting the best lines of the film and delivering the comedic blows like the seasoned comedy pros that they are.
Greed is unlikely to have the lasting power of Coogan and Winterbottom’s more consistent offerings from the past. It can be both a very breezy and very clunky experience when it comes to its delivery of information and satire, but it works for the most part thanks to its cast, who particularly find the way to make the most of the gags in between, with some inspired cameos along the way as well. It may not hit hard enough to get your blood boiling over the callous nature of capitalism, but it still maintains enough wit to it to work as an effective satire of the 1%. For fans of those involved however, you might find it hard to shake the feeling that this director and this cast had the potential to create something with a little more lasting flavour.
Dir: Michael Winterbottom
Scr: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, David Mitchell, Isla Fisher, Ollie Locke, Sophie Cookson, Shirley Henderson, Pearl Mackie, Asa Butterfield
Prd: Melissa Parmenter, Damian Jones
DOP: Giles Nuttgens
Music: Harry Escott
Run time: 104 mins
Greed is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.