In a glowing career filled with iconic roles and sex symbol status, there's one achievement that's eluded Richard Gere: a date with Oscar.
Go look it up. Believe it or not, Gere has never received an Academy Award nomination. Kinda shocking for a guy who captured our hearts as a Navy Aviation recruit in "An Office and a Gentleman" (Golden Globe nomination), had women wanting him and men wanting to be him in "Pretty Woman" (again, Globes nom) and showed off his tap dancing chops in the musical hit "Chicago" (though it seemed everyone on that film won an Oscar, nope, Gere stayed home with only a Golden Globe win).
But that might be about to change as his stirring performance as a financial banking bigwig in the white-collar thriller "Arbitrage" has had everyone talking of a little golden man in Gere's future.
In a career of transformations, the 63-year-old has mastered the debonair working professional with questionable morals. In "Pretty Woman," he was a wealthy playboy businessman with an appetite for hookers and, in "Primal Fear," he was a hot shot Chicago defense lawyer who thinks he's played all the angles until he comes across Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton in his breakout role). But for "Arbitrage," Gere's Robert Miller character is perhaps his most dangerous yet.
An aging player awaiting the close of a deal that will set his company for the foreseeable future and secure his family through these tough financial times, Miller finds himself in a situation that will put the deal up in smoke. With some quick thinking and a few phone calls, he looks to be in the clear. But a detective on the case (played with scene-chewing mastery by Tim Roth) won't give up, leading to unethical actions done by all.
The most impressive element of Gere's portrayal is its most despicable. An egomaniac with too much power and too many resources, Miller, like any great businessman, has a subtle charm that fools not only his family and associates into believing he's a humanitarian with high morals but the audience as well. We have seen Miller at his worst, but when he puts on the nice guy face, we want to believe he was only bad because he had no other choice and deep down he's a good guy.
If you think because Miller is a despicable person, it might hurt Gere's Oscar chances, think again. In the last decade, the Best Actor nominees, especially the winners, have been scattered with characters who have very questionable traits. Denzel Washington received his Best Actor win by playing his first-every bad guy as corrupt cop Alonzo in "Training Day" and Sean Penn won for playing murderous gangster Jimmy Markum in "Mystic River." Daniel Day-Lewis’ recent Oscar love has been for despicable characters, like his nominated role as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in "Gangs of New York" and his Oscar win as Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood" (though he will show a bit more class this year as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is a shoo-in nomination).
More often than not, an Oscar-worthy performance can't exist without someone talented to work with, and Gere has himself some impressive actors with him in "Arbitrage." Susan Sarandon as Miller's philanthropic wife looks prim and proper on the outside, but has her own agenda (as most do in this movie). Brit Marling plays Miller's daughter whose perception of her father is shattered when she starts digging into the company books, leading to a powerful inquisition. Then there's Nate Parker, whose character Jimmy Grant, has the most to lose from Miller's infractions. Even though he's loyal, that doesn't mean he has to like it, and the scenes where Grant confronts Miller are some of the film's most powerful.
A strong supporting cast has actually been Gere's Achilles heel, as Louis Gossett Jr. ("An Officer and a Gentleman"), Julia Roberts ("Pretty Woman"), Edward Norton ("Primal Fear"), Diane Lane ("Unfaithful") and most of the cast from "Chicago" all received Oscar nominations (Gossett Jr., and Catherine Zeta-Jones won) playing opposite Gere while he got the shaft.
Hopefully this time things will be different.