Steve Coogan is in his element in this satire about the rise and fall of a British fashion mogul
Following star turns as music Tony Wilson in 24-Hour Party People, legendary TV misfit Alan Partridge, and pornographer Paul Raymond in the Look of Love, Steve Coogan plays another rampant egotist in this helter skelter ride of a movie with his frequent collaborator Michael Winterbottom.
Watch our interview with Steve Coogan
Coogan plays Sir Richard McCreadie, Rich for short and "Greedy McGreadie" to his many enemies. He's the son of Irish emigrants, who has risen through the ranks of the London rag trade to become the billionaire self-styled "king of the high street". All ultra bright veneers, perma tan and trophy wife, he has it all, except maybe human decency and a sense of his own limitations.
His gilded existence begins to crumble when the ghosts of his past come to circle and plot and he is forced to face a public inquiry into his flagrantly unethical business dealings. To save the McCreadie "brand" and to show off to his celebrity friends, he plans an extravagant party on a Greek island to mark his 60th birthday party, based on his favourite movie Gladiator - complete with Roman amphitheatre.
In what is an impressively diverse and well-used cast, David Mitchell (essentially playing a less neurotic Nick from Peep Show) plays McCreadie’s official biographer, Shirley Henderson is terrific value as McCreadie’s indomitable mother Margaret, as is Isla Fisher as his plastic fantastic ex-wife.
Watch our interview with director Michael Winterbottom
Also lurking in the background is his sullen teenage son Finn who has the, eh, mother of all Oedipus complex complexes as he plots and seethes, and when we spot a rather disgruntled lion called Clarence pacing up and down in his cage on that Greek island, we just know he’ll be playing more than just a decorative role.
Greed certainly has the look and feel of a mockumentary and it’s at its most meta when it gleefully skewers celebrity culture. Keira Knightly, Chris Martin of Coldplay, and, in what was to her last screen performance, Caroline Flack are on hand to stroke McCreadie’s ego, while Stephen Fry adds some much needed class to that vulgar birthday bash. There is also a good James Blunt gag and a funny/serious one about Bono.
It’s all as bad taste as real fur and Winterbottom’s improvisational directing style ensures that everything looks like it’s happening at once, lending proceedings an adrenalised sense of chaos which feeds into McCreadie’s rampant ego and the blasé insularity of the super-rich.
The director, who does polemic very well, casts his net wide and while he neatly makes the connections between the filthy rich and the desperately poor, a strand about the refugee crisis jars and the tone misfires quite a lot.
Greed is an entertaining broadside at the inner ugliness of the rich and beautiful, which, in the end, bites off more than it can chew.
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2