Whilst they may not be the first names that spring to mind when recalling cinema’s most enduring actor/director tandems, Middleton-born Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom (who grew up down the road in Blackburn) have been working together for nearly 2 decades now. It’s a partnership that began with cult favourite 24 Hour Party People, taking in several features and four series of the acclaimed BBC comedy The Trip along the way. Their eighth collaboration, Greed is in UK cinemas from February.
You could argue that Greed forms something of a spiritual trilogy with 24 Hour Party People and The Look of Love. All three are built around larger than life central performances by Coogan as real life figures, ‘Mr Manchester’ Tony Wilson, ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond, and, in Greed, the character Sir Richard McCreadie – seemingly based on controversial Arcadia boss Sir Phillip Green. With close parallels to real events, fashion retail mogul McCreadie, seeks to repair his reputation – tarnished by a damaging government enquiry — by pushing ahead with an extravagant celebrity-strewn party on the Greek island of Mykonos.
Coogan’s performance is perfectly tuned to the inherent comedy of a character with all the money in the world and no idea what to do with it…
Coogan and Winterbottom lean into the absurdity for a witty satire on the excesses of the super-rich, but never lose sight of the grotesque inequality on which such empires are built. Coogan’s performance is perfectly tuned to the inherent comedy of a character with all the money in the world and no idea what to do with it. The real star of the show, though, is another Winterbottom regular, Shirley Henderson, who has quietly built up a reputation as one of the most reliable and diverse actors working today. Her turn as Coogan’s battle-axe mother (spanning the ages through subtle prosthetic work) is at the heart of the films best moments.
Co-written by Sean Gray (The Thick of It, Veep), Greed is also notable for solid, if by the numbers supporting performances from some of British comedy’s finest such as David Mitchell (Peep Show), Asim Chaudhry, Sarah Solemani and Tim Key. The final section of the film has been the source of some controversy and led to a struggle with Sony (Winterbottom wanted to conclude on a series of statistics calling out real-life retailers and moguls) over final cut. But it remains a sobering mic drop, examining the real human cost of such high fashion empires.