September 28th, 2023
MOVIE: FAIR PLAY
STARRING: PHOEBE DYNEVOR, ALDEN EHRENREICH, EDDIE MARSAN, RICH SOMMER
DIRECTOR: CHLOE DOMONT
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
Against my therapist’s better judgment, I’ve decided to write about Chloe Domont’s Fair Play, discussing the impact it left on me. I talked about the film for our entire session. I expressed how it shook me up and where it took my mind. A true statement about me is that I always want my writing to be honest, along with having a fearless approach and speaking freely about my past and present. And yes, to dive into my own personal demons may be self-serving, but it also feels incredibly pertinent to Dumont’s new film. No matter the impact it had on me, Fair Play is a spectacular drama, a painful crash of broken love and a sharp look at the fragility of the male ego in the business world.
For those who may not know, I had a difficult upbringing, being a ten-year-old without a father, it was painful. I went through life’s growing pains without any guidance or even an idea of what was in front of me. It didn’t help that I was my mother’s favorite, allowing me to take advantage of a person who was already tired from working multiple jobs or putting food on the table. My high school experiences involved sports and drinking too much on weekends. I took that talent into my college career. I played four years of football, I went to class, and I drank myself silly. Some may say it was just college, but I have realized that I was fighting my demons and had become a person I don’t recognize today. I had anger problems and I was an awful bastard to my ex-girlfriend. I’m incredibly ashamed of it and if it were not for my loving wife, that horrible person would still be around, or at least the horrible parts. Now I’ve been sober for 11 years, in therapy for over 5 years, on medication for my depression and anxiety, and I live with massive amounts of guilt on a daily basis. I do know, however, that my 5-year-old son Lucas is the only thing that matters now.
As I watched Fair Play, I felt like I saw my old self in Alden Ehrenreich’s character Luke, a selfish and jealous man, threatened when his fiance Emily (played phenomenally by Phoebe Dynevor) receives a promotion in the hedge fund firm they work at. We start where the relationship is exploding with passion. Makeout sessions in the bathroom of a wedding and a slightly drunken proposal later and we see just how much love these two have for one another. They could withstand anything, right? But with office relationships, the waters can become murky, and when Luke is passed over by Emily, things quickly sour. She becomes chummy with the boss Campbell (Eddie Marsan) trying to show that she can hang with the boys, while Luke fumes at home, unable to feel happiness for Emily when we all know it would be a different reaction if he had earned that promotion. It’s how he acts in this moment that reveals his true self.
What becomes evident by the end is that Domont is delivering a wake-up call for all men. An example of how we handle ourselves or how the male ego must be checked if we are to survive. The superiority lies in Domont’s script, fiercely written with a sharp approach to how humans interact in the endless fight for power. Similar to other wall-street films like The Big Short or Margin Call, there’s a genuine vitriol that comes from the environment, where any decision requires meticulous analysis, and a false move could result in utter embarrassment. It’s incredibly difficult to watch how Emily navigates it expertly, while Luke makes one wrong move after the next, it becomes an enthralling example of human destruction.
Fair Play feels like the perfect chaser in a post-Succession world. The theatrics of a relationship crumbling over status encapsulate where we are in gender politics. Both Ehrenreich and Dynevor deliver two of the best performances of 2023, with each navigating their character’s internal anguish with great external expression. But it’s the emotional impact that Fair Play made on me that had me gripped. It scared me and broke my heart at the same time. It was a time machine to my worst times and reminded me how far I’ve come. We can never conquer our past but we can learn to live with it and always strive to be better the next day. I think that’s a fair way to play the game of life.
FAIR PLAY IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2023, AND AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX FRIDAY OCTOBER 6TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady