FILM REVIEW — Love and War in the workplace examined in “Fair Play”

Published 12:02 am Friday, October 13, 2023

“Fair Play”

Netflix Films

Directed by Chloe Domont

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Starring Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan, Rich Sommer and Sebastian de Souza

Rated R

3 Stars

Well, that took a turn.

The new Netflix erotic thriller, “Fair Play,” starts off as a very likable romance, telling the story of Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich), two attractive Wall Street hedge fund managers who seem to be tailor made for each other.

They have a secret relationship because their company has a policy against inter-office dating, which makes their clandestine affair sizzle.

They are young and in love.

They seem to have the world at their feet.

Well, at least for the first twenty minutes or so.

Things change when Emily gets a promotion that suddenly makes her Luke’s boss. He claims to be happy for her success, but it’s obvious that his fragile male ego has taken a hit. He begins a campaign of passive aggressive sniping, which culminates in an overt act of betrayal.

As you might guess. their relationship turns very ugly.

The interesting part of “Fair Play” is how it navigates a world of changing gender dynamics. Emily tries to be the traditional, supportive girlfriend, even while she bristles at having to diminish her abilities in order to protect her boyfriend. For his part, Luke spends this entire time thinking that he’s a supportive, modern guy who just needs a fair shot at the brass ring, even while his rage and insecurity simmer just under the surface.

None of this works without the trio of great performances at the center of this drama. Most audiences will only know Dynevor from her role on “Bridgerton,” and she makes quite an impression as a woman negotiating a modern workplace in this film.

Ehrenreich was good playing the young Han Solo in his most notable previous film, but this is a far-trickier piece of acting. He’s also quite good, giving us an appealing mix of good guy and sniveling villain.

Finally, I’m a big fan of Eddie Marsan, playing the all-powerful company boss. Without these solid performances, “Fair Play” would have been a mess of a movie.

But the real accolade should go to the screenplay from writer/director Chloe Domont. In a simpler film, this story would have devolved into a straightforward thriller with a violent ending.

I certainly thought that’s where “Fair Play” was heading. Instead, Domont gives us a nuanced look into the difficulties faced by contemporary couples in a world where the man isn’t automatically the king.

I do think that the story goes off the tracks as it barrels to its final sequences. Both characters do things that seem a bit ill-informed and even dangerous. These actions seem designed to lead us to an artificial conclusion that isn’t entirely earned.

Still, it’s a satisfying ending to a film that is very engaging, whether you’re invested in office gender politics or not.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a great erotic thriller, and the fact that this is something far better than a simple genre murder mystery makes “Fair Play” into a thought-provoking, and very satisfying drama.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.