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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Greed is a comedy about a mega-rich retail mogul (Steve Coogan) who's made billions in the fashion industry by cheating and exploiting others. He's often abusive to those around him, and his lifestyle of luxury and excess is played for laughs, though the jokes often don't land. There are scenes of gambling, drinking, and drug use, as well as extremely strong language (including "f--k" and "c--t") throughout. Death is mentioned several times, and covered dead bodies are seen after a factory fire. There's also a gory scene of a man getting mauled to death by a lion. Expect kissing, straddling, and plenty of sexual references, though no actual sex is depicted on screen. Humor is often in poor taste, touching on issues including abortion, sexual harassment, and child abuse. Women are objectified, refugees are made the butt of jokes, and there are racist jokes about the Bulgarian workforce.
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What's the story?
In GREED, fashion billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan) is preparing for his 60th birthday party, which he hopes will repair his reputation following a damaging public inquiry into his iffy business practices. The film cuts between scenes of his first hustles as a teenager, the inquiry, exploited workers in Sri Lankan textile factories, and present-day preparations for the big event at a luxury Mykonos hotel. Sir Richard's ex-wife, Samantha (Isla Fisher), is present with her new partner, as is McCreadie's latest trophy girlfriend, his two children -- reality show-wannabe daughter Lily (Sophie Cookson) and distant son full of Oedipal resentment Finn (Asa Butterfield) -- and his biographer, Nick (David Mitchell). As refugees on the local beach, a half-finished Roman-style gladiator arena, a listless lion, and a run of celebrity dropouts threaten to ruin the big party, it's actually rumblings from within the McCreadie empire that could end up being Sir Richard's undoing.
Is it any good?
The latest collaboration between Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom is starting to look a little tired. (The duo previously worked together on such successes as The Trip and 24 Hour Party People.) While pop culture references abound, jokes about James Blunt, Gary Glitter, and reality TV only serve to make the film feel dated, despite its poignant subject matter, which couldn't be more timely. The comedy reaches far and wide and will no doubt elicit some easy laughs, yet it doesn't challenge viewers in the way it could. And the satire suffers from a lack of focus and finesse that leaves it in danger of missing the mark, even with "extra material" from Veep/The Thick Of It writer Sean Gray.
Coogan is as watchable as ever, and fans will enjoy the BAFTA-winning actor's latest character: Sir Richard is the physical embodiment of the Greek term "hubris," existing in a world of many classic references that can point only toward tragedy. Cameos from Ben Stiller to Stephen Fry bolster the party scene, and Fisher is great as the smart ex-wife who's fully aware of the intricacies (and legalities) of the business model that led to their success. Yet, despite the honorable intentions of picking apart the soulless retail billionaire and drawing attention to the dire inequalities to which so many continue to turn a blind eye, Greed never quite makes it clear what it's saying. Until, that is, the very end, when bleak statistics fill the screen, revealing that 80% of garment workers are women, that nine out of 10 billionaires are men, and that 17,000 refugees drowned crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety. It's sobering and important stuff. It's just a shame it feels so detached from the narrative.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about McCreadie's vast wealth. Do you think any one person should have that much money to spend on themselves?
How did the scenes in the Sri Lankan factories make you feel? Do you think it's OK to make money by exploiting others?
Which characters in Greed had admirable qualities? Would you consider any of them role models? Do you think anyone other than McCreadie had a responsibility to act differently?
Discuss the ending. Do you think it was fair? What other ways might there be to hold the characters accountable?
- In theaters: February 28, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2020
- Cast: Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, David Mitchell
- Director: Michael Winterbottom
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language and brief drug use
- Last updated: May 4, 2020
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