Fair Play is an-old school erotic thriller

Photo courtesy of Netflix
LOVE HURTS: Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) find their steamy office romance in trouble when one receives a promotion over the other, in Fair Game, streaming on Netflix.

In her feature-length debut, writer-director Chloe Domont helms this erotic thriller starring Phoebe Dynevor as Emily Meyers and Alden Ehrenreich as Luke Edmunds, two analysts at One Crest Capital, a cutthroat Manhattan hedge fund who are in a secret romantic relationship. Their love affair begins to unravel when one of them is promoted at work. (113 min.)  

Glen: If you’re a fan of director Adrian Lyne (9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful) you’ll probably dig this old-school erotic thriller. Emily and Luke are hot for each other, and I mean “screw in a bar bathroom” hot for each other. They plan to get married, but dating a colleague is frowned upon at One Crest Capital, and everyone walks on eggshells around their empathy-free boss, Campbell (Eddie Marsan), who takes glee in the attrition rate of his harried analysts. What we witness is the slow unraveling of Emily and Luke’s relationship as competitiveness, jealousy, and ego drive an increasingly ugly wedge between them. It’s an unhappy, hard-to-watch ride but also brilliantly directed and acted.  

Anna: “O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Too true, Willy. Too true. Jealousy has been used countless times to turn the most devoted of allies into savage enemies, and there’s a reason it’s used so often on-screen—there’s something fascinating about watching people unravel. Emily overhears that Luke may be up for a coveted portfolio manager position at One Crest Capital, but when things don’t work out for him professionally, he starts to take Emily’s successes personally. Late nights out with her colleagues, fat checks being floated her way, and being “in” with the boss all conspire to make him into a bitter, jealous man who soon accuses Emily of getting her status by sleeping with the boss. It’s messy and angry, and watching Luke especially is like a car wreck in slow-mo. That said, it is a delicious dive into how truly dark humans can get when that green-eyed monster comes to call.

Glen: I’m impressed by Domont’s direction, especially considering this is her feature-length debut. The film is filled with city street scenes that resonate with loneliness and alienation, and she also makes use of a lot of mirror or window reflections, making literal the duplicity of the two leads as they evolve from lovers to enemies. No one can hurt you like someone you’ve opened yourself to. Gender politics, the cutthroat world of finance, and toxic relationships—Domont has something to say about all of it. It’s a brilliant debut, but it may be too uncomfortable to watch for some viewers.

Anna: The two fight for jobs that seem miserable with the hope of somehow, one day, advancing into an orbit closer to the inner circle. They share a crappy apartment filled with hand-me-down furniture—yet they don crisp suits. The juxtaposition of one 12-hour chunk of their day in comparison to the other 12 hours sets a ripe breeding ground for the quiet chaos that follows. As long as what they present outwardly doesn’t crack, the two are happy for their secret interior world to be messy and silly and full of love. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to keep these worlds apart, especially once Luke feels he’s being overlooked while Emily is moving up. There’s definitely some trigger-heavy behavior on display; this relationship spirals into abuse quickly. The city is dark and moody and unforgiving, and the atmosphere of the film seems to follow this couple’s descent, getting grittier and darker with each scene. I can’t call this a fun watch, and I would caution those who find both physical and emotional abuse to be triggering. If you can stomach the uncomfortableness, it’s definitely worth a watch, though. Domont did a great job weaving this ultimately tragic tale.

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Comment at [email protected].

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