Written and directed by Chloe Domont, Fair game follows a couple’s descent into the depths of hell during a job promotion. The movie stars Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich and Eddie Marsan.
Fair game begins at a party where patrons are jamming to Donna Summer. At the center of it all is Emily (Dynevor) smoking a cigarette. She is in a relationship with Luke (Ehrenreich) and he steals her for a quickie. However, they soon realize that her period has started. While trying to clean up, a ring falls from his pocket to the floor which Emily discovers. He would surprise her with a marriage proposal, to which she promptly says yes.
They both work in the same office and have the same corporate job in finance. It’s an environment full of busy bodies talking, trading, screaming, crying and doing what they can to get the job done. One of their bosses gets fired and as a result, he trashes the office with a golf club.
One night, Emily is called to a night bar with her boss Rory for a drink, but when she arrives, Rory is gone and head honcho Campell is there. He talks to her about her career path, going from being a 17-year-old corporate journalist to climbing the corporate ladder two years after graduating from Harvard.
When she comes home from the meeting, Emily is solemn. Seeing her behavior causes Luke to assume she was attacked when in reality she was promoted above him. He congratulates her but his eyes tell a different story. She offers to help him get a promotion, though he prefers to do it on his own. As tension mounts between the pair, we wonder if the promotion will improve their relationship, or if gender dynamics and toxic masculinity will tear it to shreds.
It is a known fact that money is the biggest reason for divorces and breakups. Between Luke and Emily, her status is what causes their eventual disconnect. Only his fiancé is in his corner because his own bosses hate his work ethic, and now he has the pressure of his fiancee constantly reminding him of his failure. In a desperate quest to help Luke get recognized by the big wigs, Emily puts her own job in jeopardy. As the only woman with some form of power at work, screwing up could cost her everything.
Their bickering begins with passive-aggressive remarks, but eventually escalates to violence. Do they want to sabotage each other’s careers? The business world is a beast. Bosses will praise you one minute and kick you to the curb the next. How do two people in the same profession, in the same office, find the balance? Is it even possible?
Domont’s script deals with several themes at once. One examines the dynamics of this relationship, another how the power of position corrupts no matter what gender you are, and third asks, “What sacrifices are worth the price of heartbreak?” As tensions between the couple reach a fever pitch, it is clear to the public that these two people are seriously disturbed. Luke thinks his fiancée got the job by working his way to the top, and she tells him over and over that he’s not good enough. They lie to each other over and over again, to other people, all during a fucking promotion.
The stress this movie caused me is criminal, but that’s mostly because of the intensity of Dynevor and Ehrenreich’s performances. They are dedicated to creating the ugliest, hostile environment, and all that emotional venom spills over into every part of these characters’ lives. It’s a wonder how these actors didn’t pop blood vessels with all the screaming, tense and twisted facial expressions. Domont’s dialogue is just as unhinged. The things these two people say to each other jump off the screen, right between your ears, and swirl through your brain as you sit in the audience’s mouth agape from what you just heard.
Fair game shouldn’t have lasted nearly two hours though. By the end, a cool 15 minutes could have been cut because, as Luke and Emily continue to go back and forth, the film begins to lose its luster and drift into unrealistic territory.
Anyway, this Wall Street meets Blue valentine psycho-sexual drama left me feeling defeated and tired – but also pleasantly pleased to be on such an intense ride. Make sure you have the spoons to sit through Fair game because it is fierce and gloomy. My goodness, I pray I never have to witness such a thing in real life. It was hard enough to watch in a theater!
The film is produced by MRC and T-Street.