Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 3, 2020)
For a satirical look at the ultra-wealthy, we go to 2019’s Greed. Born to modest circumstances, Richard McCreadle (Steve Coogan) builds a massive retail empire.
Now a knighted billionaire, Richard undergoes a government investigation that reveals some rot within his organization. This leaves Richard damaged in the public eye.
In an attempt to redeem his image, Richard plans a decadent 60th birthday party for himself. This may not work out as well as he hopes.
Although I refer to Greed as a satire, that doesn’t fully cover the film’s ambitions. At times it leans toward “mockumentary” parody, but the movie also aspires to broader goals.
On paper, that sounds like a good idea, as a film that attempts more than simple satirical comedy seems like one that could hit the spot. However, in this case, the end result becomes such a disjointed, inconsistent mess that I wish it would’ve focused in one area and one area alone.
And that area would be the comedic side of things. As seen in Stan & Ollie as well as other projects, Coogan boasts good dramatic chops, so he shouldn’t be limited solely to funny films.
In a better film – such as the charming Stan - Coogan can prosper dramatically, but in Greed, he finds himself stuck with a cliché role that goes nowhere. Despite the tendency toward parody, Greed doesn’t give Coogan the room to really exploit the comedy, and it also fails to find the dramatic side in a satisfying manner either.
Greed can never decide what it wants to be. Part Big Short, part Spinal Tap, part Wall Street, it makes a mess of its different genres and fails to coalesce.
It also doesn’t focus on characters like it should. While Richard should become the focal point, we lose him for extended periods of time to go off with roles who frankly seem irrelevant.
Whether comedic or dramatic, Greed would work better if it stuck with Richard the vast majority of the time and only branched away for other perspectives connected to him. Instead, we find ourselves forced to deal with superfluous personalities who add little.
Really, the film’s best scenes come from flashbacks to younger Richard (Jamie Blackley). When we see how the boy became the man, we get some intriguing material.
But then the movie abandons these threads and goes for more semi-coherent nonsense instead. All of this winds up with a social message that almost literally evolves out of nowhere – and an end credits sequence that lectures the audience.
I’m all for films that attempt to educate the audience, but Greed fails because it does so in the most trite, ham-fisted manner. Add to that the fact that these elements feel utterly superfluous most of the time and the social commentary flops.
As does most of Greed as a whole. Blessed with a mix of potential positives, the film misuses these to become a tedious, disjointed affair.
Footnote: 17 years before Greed, Shirley Henderson played 14-year-old “Moaning Myrtle” in the Harry Potter films and now she portrays the mother a 60-year-old man! Actually a month younger than Coogan, she also worked with him in Stan & Ollie as Oliver Hardy’s wife. Too bad she didn’t play Mrs. Laurel, as I’d like the Oedipal notion that she played both Coogan’s mother and wife.