Nothing exceeds like excess in Michael Winterbottom’s broad satire Greed, starring Steve Coogan as a super-rich high-street-fashion mogul.
All Tomorrow's Partiesby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Greed is a gloriously over-the-top, rollicking satire closely based on the life of the disgraced chairman of Topshop, Philip Green. Steve Coogan is his uproarious, high-energy self as the avaricious, self-made, high-street fashion mogul Sir Richard McCreadie. His incredible wealth is based on a lifetime of exploitation of Third World workers in the garment industry: he embodies all the greedy, tax-dodging businessmen who become billionaires at the expense of others and who revel in the flamboyant excesses of their lifestyle.
The film is structured like a biopic, with flashbacks and interviews with people from McCreadie’s past as his story is told by David Mitchell as McCreadie’s studious biographer Nick. Because Nick is obliged to trail his subject, he ends up trapped with McCreadie and his family in their Greek island paradise as bullied minions struggle to organise the ill-fated, extravagant Ancient Rome-themed lavish party to end all parties to celebrate his 60th birthday. (Philip Green’s 60th, on which this is based, was in Mexico and reputedly cost over £6 billion.)
Coogan dominates the film as a caricature of a self-made billionaire with no scruples. Mitchell is a good comedy foil as the fish-out-of-water writer who is uncomfortable with the expensive vulgarity he sees all around him. But while the film charts the excesses and criminality of McCreadie’s life, it also targets a plethora of other contemporary issues. It takes in scripted reality TV series (by means of McCreadie’s daughter and her boyfriend) and the migrant crisis, as the extravagant birthday party takes place in a villa next to embarrassingly destitute Syrian refugees camping on the beach, who are spoiling the view from the villa.
As well as Coogan and Mitchell, Greed stars the usual British suspects – among others Isla Fisher as McCreadie’s first wife, who hosted his profits in her name in a tax haven, and Asa Butterfield, Shirley Henderson, Stephen Fry and Asim Chaudhry, It’s directed by Michael Winterbottom. Greed is a funny laughalong, it’s very enjoyable but doesn’t really attack as strongly as it could all the promising themes it sets up.
Greed premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 21 February 2020 in the UK.