Michael Winterbottom’s latest film, “Greed” is his most overtly political comedy, a outraged satire on inequality that wears its political agenda on its sleeves but doesn’t engage well on a comedic or artistic level. There is no doubt that Winterbottom and his ensemble, lead by Winterbottom regular Steve Coogan and David Mitchell believe in the principles of their work, a social satire that uses mockery to take a stand on greed run amok. As a message-oriented comedy, “Greed” is too familiar and overstuffed, consisting on a series of exchanges and jarring timeline jumps that unravel in its messy docu-drama aesthetics that plays out like something you would catch on reality television.
Though, the movie is not clever enough to voice different point of views, ultimately, it comes across more as a politically bias platform that would have been more effective if it dived deeper into what truly generates greed–the corporatism style legislation that often benefits and shields the wealthy over perfect competitions that is the main ingredient for combating against economic disparities and improving prosperity for all. One of the most fascinating elements of this project is the witty left-wing screenplay also written by Winterbottom, echoes the political commentary in his other films that include “Welcome to Sarajevo,” “In this World,” “Road to Guantanamo,” and a “A Mighty Heart,” were are reflections of the current political spectrum going abroad. Winterbottom continues his political spirits and deep concerns once again with this film.
That said, “Greed” isn’t without merits, it is undeniably enjoyable at times. The film offers glimpses into the fabric of basic institutions, such as banking, finance, advertising, and fashion in which crucial people running these institutions are often co-opted and inclined to follow their hallow and greedy impulses that leave many other people exploited and disenfranchised.
The main focus is on the protagonist Sir Richard McGreadie (Coogan), a selfish tycoon who is nicknamed “Greedy” by the tabloids, is the owner of a large department-store chain who is just a vile and greedy individual. With his 60th birthday approaching, that is to be celebrated on a Greek island, Richard’s party plans is absurd: He wants to build a coliseum that holds a real lion, as everyone wears a toga in the coliseum. He ends up degrading and upsetting almost everyone he associates himself with because nothing is good enough. He is on top of the hierarchy, he trickles down his vile behavior to others. Coogan sports his spotty, fake white teeth. He thrives as being a misanthropic sadist to others. Coogan’s performance here is obnoxious and cruel, and the humor misfires on many levels.
While the film is structured with flashbacks and flash-forwards in a frustrating narrative stricture. We learn nothing really about Sir Richard other than the fact that he is a one-dimensional cartoonish character played for buffoonery. There is no insights to his rise to success, other than the fact it’s very much a mean-spirited and ill-conceived performance played without one ounce of nuance or subtly. His ex-wife and current business partner Samantha (Isla Fisher) is always supportive of him, mainly for status, he also has a teenage girlfriend that is almost the same age of his youngest son. Meanwhile Syrian refugees are on the beach on the Greek island, Richard demands they vacate the beach.
One of the more absurdist qualities of “Greed” is the cast of Shirley Henderson, who plays Coogan’s mother, it’s bizarre casting considering the fact Henderson is probably the same age. The film’s editing and structure is also very sloppy. Unfortunately, limited, by the nature of its script that relies on too many plot time lines, Winterbottom has crafted a forgettable, preachy movie that largely consists of episodic interludes of satiric absurdity that feels like a pale-intimation of Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
Messy and similar in tone with Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat,” “Greed” becomes another statement and familiar film about the “dangers of greed” that fancies itself as farce, inviting insights on subjects we have been lectured about in numerous other movies. “Greed” more or less is just another exercise on class-envy that fails to resonant on any deep or purposeful level.