This piece was written during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Do you ever wonder what being more financially successful than your romantic partner can do to your relationship? There are numerous ways this can go down: an ideal scenario can lead to a stable, supporting relationship, while the excruciating extreme can be a power-hungry, toxic meltdown — especially when a woman is the financial dominator in the relationship.
Fair Play starring Bridgerton‘s Phoebe Dynevor and Oppenheimer’s Alden Ehrenreich is an intense psychological thriller full of romance, finance, and gender dynamics. With a smart script by writer-director Chloe Domont at its helm, Fair Play offers a captivating breakdown of female empowerment in the #MeToo era and the fragility of male egos.
‘Fair Play’ Review: Showcasing A Couple’s Burning Tension for the Hierarchy of Power
Fair Play tells the story of Emily (Dynevor) and Luke (Ehrenreich) who are work colleagues living in a secret romance due to their workplace’s policies on intimacy. The couple basically lives a double life: one where they’re happily in love, planning to marry, and the other is all business and Wall Street. However, in a story revolving around a secret workplace relationship, things can get a little… complicated.
When Emily gets the promotion of a lifetime, her and Luke’s personal and professional lives are put to the test, leading to patriarchal discourse about the complexities of being in a relationship where one partner is in a position of power over the other. This film unfolds in the smartest of ways, giving audiences a taste of the jealousies and rage of a workplace relationship, along with what a person can do to sabotage their partner’s career.
Domont’s screenplay and direction channel the vibes of David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, but in a financial office setting and a gender politics storyline that captivates you until the twist at the end. Luke’s patriarchal tendencies start to show when he feels threatened by Emily’s new position at their financial firm, causing him to backlash. He believes a woman, even his own fiancée, shouldn’t be working above him or making more money than him. In other words, Luke’s masculine ego is the biggest threat in this story.
This burning tension for the hierarchy of power is what breaks the romance between Luke and Emily. Domont flawlessly brings awareness to the #MeToo movement in this film. She directs from the female perspective, making it extremely entertaining and satisfying to see a woman fight for her deserved position, despite her romantic partner being triggered by the new status she now holds.
‘Fair Play’ Contains Career-Best Performances From Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich
This intense thriller wouldn’t have worked without the combination of Dynevor and Ehrenreich’s impeccable casting and Domont’s incredible script. The chemistry between the two actors is astounding; watching them perform a venomous fallout is one of many reasons Fair Play is a thrilling film to watch.
Dynevor, in particular, stands out. The way she maintains her character’s hardships from their work and love life is fascinating. She forcefully clings to the pain and then erupts when her support system is no longer there to do just that — and does it so brilliantly by standing up tall and proving that she deserves the position that she was given, regardless of the heavily male-dominated environment. Coming off her breakout role in Bridgerton, Dynevor proves in this performance that she can be up there with the big contenders in the entertainment industry.
Ehrenreich, on the other hand, is terrifyingly good at playing the sociopath Luke. He captures Luke’s every possible fragility by hiding his ego behind a fake, supportive smile. Luke opens in the most unnerving of ways, and watching Ehrenreich’s performance develop makes one grapple the sides of their seat. With a film like Fair Play, it’s given him the ability to demonstrate the remarkable talent he has in his vault.
Eddie Marsan also delivers a terrific performance in this film. When playing the ice-cold, sinister boss of Emily and Luke, Marsan embodies a character that audiences should naturally be afraid of. Especially when he appears in a room of sociopathic men focused entirely on Wall Street analytics and their personal power positions.
From real romantic moments to intense arguments, Dynevor and Ehrenreich are the pair who outstandingly act out electrifying scenes that will make audiences love (or hate) them as the film progresses. Alongside them, the rest of the cast is perfect for their parts, leaving them all with performances that are a staple for their individual careers.
‘Fair Play’ Presents Another Successful Writer-Director Film
Accompanied by executive producer Rian Johnson, who is a successful writer-director for his work on the Knives Out universe, Fair Play demonstrates another film that’s part of the growing success of films by writer-directors. Domont’s ability as a writer-director presents such a fiercely entertaining ride, that it’s hard to miss the underlying story that reflects our real world.
Fair Play premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 20 and then at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival on September 13. Netflix acquired the distribution rights to the film, and it will make its worldwide release on the streaming service on October 6.
'Fair Play' Review'Fair Play' Review
- The screenplay is smartly written
- Career-best performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich
- They talk about Wall Street analytics and finance a lot, which can be hard to follow for the uninitiated