FAIR PLAY | USA | 2023 | 113m | English
Starring: Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan
Directed By: Chloe Domont
Emily (Dynevor) and Luke (Ehrenreich) lead a double life. In one, they’re madly in love, share a cozy apartment, and plan to marry. In the other, they’re purely platonic colleagues working for One Crest Capital, where worker intimacy is a violation of company policy. When Emily is given the portfolio-manager role Luke had coveted, their private and public relationships become equally strained. Luke must work under Emily as her analyst, and finds himself in a position where even a moment’s hesitation can result in his fiancé’s advancement or humiliation. Already faced with proving herself within a traditional boy’s club, Emily is also forced to contend with the amorous advances of her superior. She’s trapped in a high-wire act where anyone might ascend the ranks or be brutally exiled — depending entirely on whether they bring in the money.
Domont has a pitch-perfect ear for finance jargon and business-bro vernacular, and brilliant insights into the machinations of corporate treachery. Alongside Dynevor and Ehrenreich, her assets include Eddie Marsan, who gives a performance of sinister genius as Emily’s boss.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
RATING 5 out of 5
Fair Play is one of the year’s most shocking, unforgettable, and best films thanks to writer-director Chloe Domont's brilliant screenplay and direction, with two sensational performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich, this is one thriller you won’t ever forget!
Every couple of years, there comes a film that will make your jaw drop leaving you in utter shock, and examining the world we live in. Most recently, that film was Promising Young Woman, which tackled sexual assault and revenge, encouraging audiences to re-examine how sexual assault narratives are handled in today’s society. While it tackles different subject matter, Promising Young Woman is the best comparison to Chloe Domont’s feature film debut. Set in the cut throat world of Wall Street hedge funds, and disguised as an erotic thriller, Domont explores traditional gender dynamics and the situation that women find themselves in the workplace, with the same razor sharp and unwavering tenacity that Emerald Fennell brought in Promising Young Woman, that will rightfully stun audiences and start a very important conversation.
Emily and Luke both work at the same cut throat hedge fund in New York City, but their co-workers are unaware they’re engaged.When one of them gets an unexpected promotion, becoming their partner’s boss, it puts their relationship to the test.
Without question, Domont has crafted one of the most riveting and razor sharp original screenplays of the year with Fair Play. Domont tackles the fragility of the male ego in the workplace head one by addressing the way men will protect their own ego by downplaying female achievements through Emily and Luke’s relationship at work. Emily is forced to act in a way that some viewers would describe as dirty or cutthroat, though if she were a man it would never be viewed this way, while Luke is both infatuated and threatened by Emily’s killer instinct. It has all the ingredients for a thrilling story that unpacks their relationship, in the context of an erotic thriller, and Domont takes it further than you ever expect the story to go. Never shying away from the brutal honesty of the situation, both characters are pushed to the brink, allowing their flaws to be seen and providing viewers arguments both in favour of and against their actions, leaving the audience on the edge of their seat in fear, and utter shock by the time the film’s credits begin to roll. It’s not for the faint of heart, as the film is graphic and explicit at times, but Domont without question succeeds in challenging gender dynamic norms in the workplace that will have viewers re-examining their own work environment.
Elevating the brilliant screenplay and thematic exploration is Domont’s direction of the film. Slowly turning up the heat with each scene past the boiling point, and leading to an explosive final act, Domont does not take her foot off the gas for a second. Domont plunges the audience right into the struggle between Emily and Luke, with tight cinematography that gives the film a claustrophobic feeling. Whether it be the fishbowl environment of the office with bright lights that gives the feeling that Emily and Luke are constantly under surveillance, or their small and cramped apartment with lots of darkness plunged areas that does not feel safe, Domont utilizes the environment of the story to raise the tension of the story. Similarly, Brian McOmber’s musical score sets you on edge as it matches the tense nature of the hedge fund and the volatile escalation of Emily and Luke’s relationship. It's an unwavering vision from Domont that makes for an riveting cinematic experience that will have you on the edge of your seat, that brings back the erotic thriller with explosive filmmaking.
Electrifying the screen with their breathtaking performances are Phoebe Dynevor, and Alden Ehrenreich, in the lead roles of Emily and Luke. Dynevor is a fierce force to be reckoned with as Emily, embodying this powerful young woman trying to make her mark in a male dominated industry. Mixing intelligence with grace and a killer instinct, Dynevor delivers one of the finest performances from the year, as Emily is put through the ringer by her job and Luke. There is an emotional vulnerability that Dynevor brings to the role that has you holding your breath in hopes that Emily will escape the situation unscathed, as well as an intensity that signifies to you that Emily is not going to lose. Ehrenreich is every bit as outstanding as Dynevor, capturing Luke’s full psychological breakdown and spiral into chaos in a harrowing performance. Starting off charming and suave, Ehrenreich slowly unravels Luke in front of your eyes, delivering a volatile performance that is required for Domont’s story to have its intended effect on viewers. As a pairing, Dynevor and Ehrenreich are a sensational team, creating a beautiful romance in the first act of the film, before infusing their fiery passion with a deadly game to achieve power over each other, with devastating results for both of them.
Though the film belongs to Dynevor and Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan is great in his supporting role as Campbell, the managing partner of the hedge fund. While he does not have many lines, there is a silent, terrifying and unpredictable quality to Marsan that he holds in his eyes. It leaves you on edge, as Campbell could have an outburst at any second in a violent rampage, or deliver an icy line of dialogue that cuts you to your core. It’s a brilliant supporting performance that is the perfect counterbalance to the showy performances of Dynevor and Ehrenreich.
Not only does Fair Play indicate the renaissance of the erotic thriller is upon us, it is one of the most important and nerve wracking films of the entire year. With a bold screenplay and direction from Chloe Domont that explores gender dynamics in the workplace with a brutal honesty that will have you on the edge of your seat, and featuring two sensational performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich that ensure you cannot take your eyes off the screen, Fair Play is a truly brilliant feature film debut for Domont that delivers an unforgettable and relentless cinematic experience!