In Battle of the Sexes of “Fair Play,” the Audience Doesn’t Win

It’s Trader vs. Trader in the consistently watchable but ultimately off-the-rails dramatic thriller Fair Play (C+), a Sundance  sensation written and directed by first-time filmmaker Chloe Domont and debuting on Netflix. Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich portray the compelling central couple secretly dating while working together at a ruthless NYC hedge fund firm managed by a terrifying character played by Eddie Marsan. An unexpected work promotion pushes the lovers’ workplace relationship to the brink while simultaneously shifting the balance of their romantic domestic life. This brisk and buzzy film is gorgeously shot in the contemporary hues and tones of modern Manhattan and spends its running time blurring gender and power lines in an intriguing game of brinksmanship up until the machinations of the plot become fully preposterous. There’s a more subtle story here about gender dynamics in the workplace and a more entertaining erotic thriller afoot begging to break free from the confines of the film structure that’s actually presented. Dynevor is especially effective in her characterization  until it seems she is trying to deliver some ludicrous lines and making strange character decisions. Ehrenreich too gives his all but is defeated at times by the words and actions of the script. Side characters have scant development, and it becomes unclear who’s actually the protagonist at times. The film ultimately has less on the mind than it seems at first. Ultimately nobody gets off scot free including the audience.

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