Michael Winterbottom’s entertaining mockumentary about a high-street fashion tycoon presents a hideous carnival of obscene wealth, vanity and moral squalor
That exhilaratingly prolific film-maker Michael Winterbottom – working with co-writer Sean Gray from The Thick of It – has served up a breezy, funny, unsubtle scattershot satire-melodrama all about the moral squalor of the super-rich. They are epitomised by a fictional high-street fashion mogul called Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie as he prepares for a monumentally tasteless, Fyre festival-ish, Roman-themed 60th birthday party on the plutocrats’ island of Mykonos. (Rome in Greece? Why not?)
McCreadie has just suffered a nightmare of bad publicity following a catastrophically bad-tempered performance in front of a parliamentary select committee, and all the celebs are starting to pull out of his bash. One star who will be there is Clarence, a real, live lion for a re-creation of the Coloseum scene from the movie Gladiator. There’s no need to wonder if that might go horribly, black-comically and symbolically wrong.
This is, of course, all a caricature of the Topshop supremo Philip Green. McCreadie is played by Steve Coogan with a tan, an open-necked shirt, alpha-male silver-grey hair and emulsion-white teeth. It is a nice enough performance from Coogan, but this excellent actor is not especially challenged by the shallow, if entertaining, role as it is written, and his technical skill in performance is perhaps best shown most in a tiny moment when he impersonates Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz.