Film review: “Fair Play”

An erotic thriller set in hedge fund land.

By Stefan Nilsson

“Fair Play” is a film that has been described as an erotic thriller set in hedge fund land. Having watched it as it premiered on Netflix, I can say that the film doesn’t contain much eroticism and it isn’t much of a thriller either. However, due to the film being set in the hedge fund industry, I wanted to see it. It is often fascinating to see how outsiders portray what goes on in our industry.

Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich put in good performances as Emily and Luke, two romantically involved and secretly engaged (breach of company compliance rules!) investment colleagues at the fictional New York hedge fund firm Crest Capital. Eddie Marsan puts in a terrific performance portraying the ruthless hedge fund boss Campbell. Crest Capital is portrayed as a work hard, play hard kind of place. Crest’s office houses plenty of jealousy, rivalry, office politics and self-doubt. There are heaps of inappropriate jokes and sexist comments throughout the film. When Emily gets the promotion both she and Luke thought he would get, it creates increased tension in the relationship (”You stole my fucking job!”). Stress levels are going through the roof throughout the film, which features a couple of very memorable in-office meltdowns.

The story features a bunch of situations that many of us can relate to, including demanding bosses, big trading losses following poor research, someone toying with insider trading ideas to make up for trading losses and the impact of big bonus cheques. What immediately hit me when the first scene showing the firm’s trading floor appeared on screen was that all portfolio managers, traders and analysts were dressed up in suits and ties (with jackets on!). It looks more like an investment bank than a hedge fund in my experience. It’s not a brilliant movie. It’s OK, watchable. It Is an interesting, but unsurprising, take on how some outsiders see the competitive hedge fund industry. I am not sure it will attract any new talent to our ranks (at least not the right type of people!), but it gives a hint of what one might expect. The shenanigans aside, it is certainly true that it is a demanding industry and that one needs to be prepared to work harder and smarter than could possibly be imagined if one wants to succeed and thrive. There is no room for slackers.