A love and revenge drama set in the cutthroat world of high finance, Fair Play is a powerful and disturbing feature debut film by writer-director Chloe Domont that is being labeled “a Wall Street for the #MeToo era.” The film stars Phoebe Dynevor from TV’s Bridgerton series and Aiden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), two appealing dynamos who, after this, are guaranteed major screen time in terms of future stardom.
They play Emily and Luke, a couple forced to keep their romance a secret because they both work for a major stock market investment corporation called One Crest Capital, where personal relationships among competitive employees are forbidden. In the merciless milieu of hedge fund managers, it’s every man for himself, and Emily and Luke are low on the totem pole of longevity and job security. But they are madly in love, share a small apartment and plan to marry.
FAIR PLAY ★★★ (3/4 stars)
Enough sex scenes follow to seal the success of that future marriage—until one thing happens that challenges everything they vow and changes the trajectory of their future. A coveted position as portfolio manager suddenly opens and although Luke wants the job, it’s Emily who gets it. Despite Luke’s pretense that he’s proud of her, his hidden resentment builds and the relationship suffers. In essence, she is now his superior. Worse still, she’s making more money and has more power to make decisions that affect him. This is the business world of high finance, where women have struggled for years to achieve equal status. With typical alpha male vanity, he resents her efforts to help him get a promotion of his own and every move she makes advances his humiliation.
Tensions build. Dangers accelerate. Small misunderstandings take on big hurdles. Their relationship weakens. Their sex life dissipates to the point where all interest dies. There’s a lot of technical discourse about data analysis, industry performance, computer vision teams, consensus revenue, global economy, annualized returns, passive equity strategies and related subjects Ms. Domont explores with fury and passion. Her ease and skill for finance jargon are so natural that respect and awe for her high-wire act become inevitable. And she knows how to milk maximum assets from her amazing co-stars as well as Eddie Marsan as their vicious, conniving boss.
The cast is riveting and the insights into the poisonous priorities of people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing at all paint a picture of modern corporate treachery. But as much as I admired the whole thing, this movie left a nasty taste in my mouth. The dramatic stakes are well served, but Fair Play is anything but fair and ends with the cruelest feminist violence imaginable. Thoughtful, but hardly what I’d call entertainment.