TIFF 2019 Review: Greed is the Most Important Film of the Year
Michael Winterbottom is one of the few filmmakers who makes a new film every year. He has been at it since 1995. His latest film, Greed, is a fictional tale set in the world of retail fashion. Steve Coogan stars as Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie, an infamous business tycoon who only cares about himself and his bank account.
The film opens with McCreadie planning an elaborate celebration for his 60th birthday while Nick (David Mitchell) begins writing his biography. We learn how McCreadie built his billion-dollar empire and how it has affected the lives of hundreds of people.
Greed isn’t just one of Winterbottom’s best films, it’s also one of his most important to date. This darkly comedic tale takes a pointed look at the fashion industry and how one man exploited hundreds of men, women, and children to make billions of dollars. Making this even worse are the loopholes allowing these unethical business practices to happen. Throughout his career, McCreadie buys up dozens upon dozens of clothing stores, takes out loans against them to build up his personal bank account, and then drives the businesses into the ground.
Coogan embraces his comedic side while also playing a heartless asshole. While criminally underrated here in the States, he has no problem delivering Winterbottom’s sharp dialogue, as he has done many times before.
With this performance, however, he gets to explore his dark side with a truly disgusting and vile character. McCreadie lacks any sort of moral compass as he nickels and dimes every single person he comes in contact with.
At one point in the film, he travels through Sri Lanka, looking for the cheapest sweatshop. He then bullies all of the sweatshop owners determined to get the best price despite the already massive profit margin. After striking a deal at a ridiculously low price, McCreadie refuses to pay his taxi driver, because he doesn’t like the drivers’ rate, and simply walks away without any sort of repercussions.
Most of what’s revealed in Greed isn’t new information, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Seeing stories about sleazy businessmen who take advantage of a broken system, should spark a conversation and make people angry. I walked out of Greed upset knowing what was shown actually happens in real life.
Celebrities say they care about those who are impoverished but continue to support an industry that takes advantage of people. Countless famous people spend billions of dollars on designer clothing which are made for pennies on the dollar and yet they don’t blink an eye. Again, none of this is new information, but Winterbottom presents this story in a powerful way.
In one of the film’s more shocking moments, a group of Syrian refugees are camped out on the beach right next to where McCreadie is planning his massive birthday event. McCreadie doesn’t like their presence, so he tells his people to have them moved. Later in the film, McCreadie uses them to build positive publicity for his party by feeding them and then taking the food away, once the cameras stop rolling.
Recent films such as The Big Short and The Laundromat have explored the division between the rich and the poor. Greed continues this trend but does so in a bold way. Throughout the film, we see Amanda (Dinita Gohil), one of McCreadie’s top-level employees, becoming increasingly upset by his actions and treatment of others. In the end, she takes a stand against McCreadie in a totally unexpected way. When Amanda is asked why she did what she did, she responds, “It was faith moving through.”
Greed, although very funny at times, serves more as a wake-up call than a satire. Michael Winterbottom ends Greed with a series of alarming facts about the fashion industry. These statistics show how even with all of the recent movements, millions of people still suffer while the one percent keep getting richer.