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Sundance’s ‘Fair Play’ Is The Best Kind Of Trashy

Chloe Domont’s Fair Play (premiering at Sundance this week) is very entertaining. It does feel like a throwback of a special kind of trashy movie that came out in the ’80s and ’90s. But some of the comparisons to Adrian Lyne movies are going a bit far. They literally don’t make movies like that anymore and they still don’t (have you actually seen Fatal Attraction recently?) but I’ll concede there’s some shared DNA here, or at least as much as there can be in 2023 for a movie premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. What’s kind of impressive here is Fair Game does have a lot to say about gender dynamics in a “boy’s club” work environment, but it doesn’t get bogged down in that to the point we are watching a lecture. Like I said in the first sentence, this is a very entertaining movie.

Both Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich are great as Emily and Luke. (Also, it’s kind of funny that in his first movie since playing Han Solo, Ehrenreich is now playing a character named “Luke.”) These two are really going for it. It’s great to see some old-fashioned screaming matches. To the point, I can envision after one of these Ehrenreich telling his publicist, “use that scene for my Oscar campaign.”

Anyway, Emily and Luke are newly engaged, and they work together at some hotshot investment firm that some people seem to actually like working at but always looks like my own personal hell on earth. (I’m sure the money is nice.) No one is aware of their personal relationship because it’s against company policy. After a manager is fired, Luke hears a rumor that he’s in line for a promotion. But the promotion actually goes to Emily and now Luke reports directly to her. The thing is, Emily is actually really good at her job and Luke is mediocre at best. When she hints to her bosses that Luke should also get a promotion, she is told they don’t like Luke and the plan is to just make his life miserable until he quits.

Luke grows more and more paranoid that Emily slept her way to the promotion and spends pretty much the rest of the movie either telling her how lousy she is or giving her terrible business advice… to the point it’s not clear if he’s purposefully trying to sabotage her career or he’s just truly bad at his job. She listens to him once, which costs the firm $25 million. She ignores his advice the second time, resulting in a big win for the firm. Eventually Luke stops showing up to work – drinking his days away instead – which then leads to a dramatic blow-up between the two. All the while Emily still has to navigate her boss – who like to call at 2am for long phone chats and literally calls her a “dumb bitch” after the $25 million mistake – and her other employees who don’t like her very much.

But the thing is, this movie moves. Like I said, it has a lot to say, but says it while keeping the proceedings on a timely tempo. Also, I’m happy Alden Ehrenreich gets a meaty role here. I do kind of worry about him. It did appear like he got thrown in actor jail after Solo under-performed. Fair Play is literally his first movie released since Solo. Someone had to take the fall and there were plenty of candidates, but it did seem to fall on him and that never seemed fair. When Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were directing, Ehrenreich was hired to basically play the lead in a comedy romp. During production, Lord and Miller were let go and all of a sudden he’s the lead in a straightforward action drama. I actually think Solo is a good amount of fun, but you can tell Ehrenreich kind of has a look on his face, “This is not the part I signed up for.” Anyway, my point here is Ehrenreich is really great in this movie and I really hope this jumpstarts him back into more movies. (He does have Cocaine Bear and Oppenheimer coming up, though I have no idea how big his roles are in either.)

The biggest thing working against Fair Play is that this is 2023. And movies like Fair Play don’t play in movie theaters. So, I actually just paused to look up if anyone bought Fair Play out of Sundance yet and, yep, it was Netflix. So look for Fair Play to be streaming on your television or mobile device sometime this year.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.