margincallLiving On The Edge
Margin Call
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Penn Badgley, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Paul Brittany and Simon Baker
Director/Scriptwriter: J. C. Chandor
Roadside Attractions
Rating: R for language
Running Length: 110 minutes
Life is a rush and living on the edge is what people in the financial world do every day. On the outside, it is calm and collected, but within, perspiration rains, tempers flair and people-----those faceless people on the street----don't have a clue about what you just did to their retirement fund.  Such is the world of J. C. Chandor’s first film, “Margin Call.”  It’s like trying to defuse a bomb before anyone knows there is a bomb there. In Margin Call, think Lehman Brothers and you have an idea of the problem explained in the film.
Stanley Tucci, a financial risk analyst, is let go from the company in yet another lay-off. Before leaving, he hands a file to an up-and-coming analyst, Zachary Quinto, telling him that he (Tucci) doesn't quite have it yet. Quinto is curious and discovers the missing element in the financial equation. What it means is that this mythical company has super-overextended itself with no safety net.  What to do?  You are falling with no one to catch you.  Within a 24-hour period, Quinto tells his friend, Penn Badgley, and they in turn go to their boss, Paul Brittany, then his boss Kevin Spacey, then to Demi Moore and finally the head honcho, Jeremy Irons. Heads roll, careers go down the drain, and what is most important to Irons is that the company remain intact. In essence, cut off the many heads of the Hydra, but keep the body. This is a roller-coaster ride and along the way we get a glimpse into the personal lives of the players and what they have lost for their exciting job. An example is Kevin Spacey’s love for his dog, actually to the neglect of his former wife and children. Misplaced devotion in a madcap world of finance. Quinto says, when asked about his doctorate in astro-psychics, “You just take the formulas and apply them here….and besides, the money is better.” Demi Moore is quietly talking to Kevin Spacey about his children, and all the while she has a wistful look on her face that says, perhaps career isn't everything.
For a first-time film, Margin Call does very well. The camera jumps around a bit and one wonders why certain people end up in odd places in the building, and just where are all these bottles of liquor coming from. Offices are lush, salaries range in the millions, and board meetings can be called together at 2 a.m. with everyone dressed well. Acting is well done, too. Each major star gets their moment in front of the camera. Stanley Tucci’s facial expressions at being let go speak eloquently without much dialogue.  Jeremy Irons, as the head man, say he wants plain talk, but you know he knows what’s going on and is a master at this game. Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley make a good team as two young men caught up in something they certainly didn't expect. Paul Brittany can be difficult to understand at times. It is Kevin Spacey that pulls the film together.  He is the cheerleader in the office and what speeches he gives in the morning to get everyone to work, as though saying, “…the ship is sinking but keep rowing…” 
In the film, Jeremy Irons gives a brief history of other stock market problems and it seems to happen every 15 years or so. “We can't help ourselves,” he says. For anyone who has lost money by buying or selling unwisely, here is an example of what goes on behind the scenes. No one is on your side, it is every man/woman for themselves.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner