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Book Notes

January 31, 2013

Two thumbs up for the film 'Arbitrage"

Arbitrage is a word that 99.99 percent of us probably never heard of until the movie with that title appeared. I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered why nobody had heard of it. It refers to Wall Street financiers and has a meaning so convoluted that I couldn’t figure it out. Thank goodness the website clarified its definition as “the possibility of risk-free profit at zero cost.” That might be a nice way of saying that the Wall Street fat cats can make irresponsible investments and then have the U.S. taxpayers bail them out.

I actually didn’t bring up the word to talk about banks that are too big to fail. That story has been told umpteen times. I actually wanted to talk about the movie that brought celebrity to that word. If you haven’t seen “Arbitrage” you might want to take a chance on it. It’s certainly different than your run-of-the-mill, high-finance suspense thriller.

Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon star in this superb movie about a man who seems to have everything. Gere seems perfect for the role since you immediately peg him as the same kind of successful billionaire he portrayed in “Pretty Woman.” In that movie he was a cut-throat businessman who deep down was a decent human being. He appears to be the same basic character in this film. Gere is portrayed at the outset as a highly successful Wall Street trader and devoted family man.

Digressing for a moment, I can understand why good actors hate to be stereotyped. I remember when the mini-series “Roots” was on back in the 1970s and seeing Lorne Greene portraying the slave owner who purchases Kunta Kinte. My instinctive reaction was that at least the poor kid was bought by Ben Cartwright, the “Bonzana” patriarch. It was a little off-putting to discover that “Ben Cartwright” could be as brutal and cold-blooded as any other slave owner.

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