As a script writer for hire and UK script consultant I caught up with Michael Winterbottom’s ‘Greed’ this week. A kind of comedy biography of a UK retail tycoon, not unlike Arcadia Group’s disgraced (but still stomping around) ‘Sir’ Phillip Green (last time I call him ‘Sir’ here).
Now, there’s definitely some sort of film in the story of the rise of a business man like Phillip Green. He’s a ruthless dealmaker and boss, he’s made himself and his wife hugely wealthy, while avoiding tax in the UK, and taking lots and lots of money from the pension funds of the businesses he’s run – impacting employees ability to retire (to such an extent the government had to step in and force him to pay some money back).
It also seems that he’s taken advantage of lax banking, business and stock market laws, all to his advantage. At various times he’s also had a high public profile, but he’s now gone from a ‘King of the High Street’ to a figure of hate, as his businesses fail, he’s nipping off on his yacht to the Greek Islands, while his employees struggle to pay the rent.
So, no tax, dodgy deals, legal theft of other’s savings. That’s Phillip. Winterbottom’s film picks up Steve Cogan’s ‘Sir Richard McCreadie’ (greedy McCreadie) at the preparations for his 60th birthday bash, ‘Gladiator’ themed, it’s on a Greek island and celebs are being paid to attend. It’s tabloid fodder, and McCreadie comes across as a barrow boy bully, a chancer done well at best.
The film tries to make points by having some asylum seekers on the beach next to the lavish McCreadie villa, and we flash back to McCreadie’s rise in retail, these scenes seem obvious, alongside some footage of the lives of people who make his disposable fashion in the developing nations, their efforts get little reward as McCreadie lives it up, having his own private coliseum being built, with Lions and Gladiators ready to entertain McCreadie and his guests.
We get to know McCreadie biographer, and some of his assistants and staff, his family unit and son are dysfunctional, he staff seem to loathe him too. The film staggers around and then an end comes unexpectedly, the coda that follows is weak and confusing. The film only digs at the surface, and finally the whole enterprise is too obvious, it aims for laughs and ridicule of McCreadie, but a character like him deserves more than that, and less than the ending given.
It’s still worth watching, despite the tone being wrong – too sitcom at times.
McCreadie and his ilk require a more in-depth character study, but, who would watch that? And I think that’s the final dilemma the filmmakers faced. A real character study on Phillip Green would be a very depressing affair, without (so far) a satisfying ending.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. His UK script coverage service and script development service are highly sought after.
You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.
You can get in touch with Matthew on email@example.com.