Chloe Domont’s erotic thriller — that premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival — revolves around the romance between a young couple and how working at a hedge fund affects their relationship.
Fair Play — now available on Netflix — tiptoes inside the lives of Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich), who are secretive at work because relationships are against company policy, but are so much in love that they get engaged. They seem to keep this awkward balance under control, until Emily’s promotion triggers some dynamics within the couple that lead to obstreperous circumstances.
The film begins with a very potent theme: how women’s professional successes may cause them to feel more sense of guilt than pride and how men are threatened by female ambition. Fair Play very effectively portrays gender discrimination in the work place, and the way women play according to the rules, but are frequently accused of sleeping their way up to the top rather than having their achievements recognised as meritorious. Besides the topic of ‘fair play,’ the film is also efficacious in showing how a woman’s accomplishment might affect her partner’s ego and influence a couple’s sexual sphere.
The premise is exceptionally captivating, especially because Emily is navigating a man’s world as the rising star of Manhattan’s high finance. Every scene at the office is drenched with toxic masculinity that, to begin with, is juxtaposed with the love doves’ purity. They genuinely seem to have created a safe haven for themselves. As the story progresses, we witness Luke’s nervous breakdown and sense of inferiority, and how Emily’s female nurture gets disrobed as she starts acting more like a man.
The Battle of the Sexes is unleashed in this motion picture, almost as if Domont were trying to recreate a more modern version of The War of the Roses. However, the excessive rage and overreaction of characters — that we were introduced to as being quiet, pondered and understanding — makes it come across as a bogus social criticism. The protagonists become too hysterical. One may consider it understandable, since we are shown in the early stages of the film how the hedge fund career can lead people to outrageous burnouts. Yet the savage behaviours that Emily and Luke reach towards the end make the narrative less credible.
Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich dutifully portray the evolution of their characters, as they initially suppress their respective frustrations and eventually explode into their own expression of exasperation. They very well depict two personalities in evolution, the problem is Chloe Domont’s script that demands this transformation to shift from the idyllic mode to the unhinged extreme.
Work ethics intertwine with relationship boundaries prodigiously, until the climax of the fracture between Emily and Luke reaches an overly dramatic peak. Hence, Fair Play is strong in tackling the way the thirst for success undermines and kills everything, but it is feeble in its final delivery.
Final Grade: C+