I sat down in my chair to watch MARGIN CALL ready for whatever was in store for me in this Oscar nominated screenplay and a knockout cast only to be left at the end with a very perplexed feeling. Not only because there’s a lot of financial mumbo jumbo being thrown around with wreckless abandon but because I just didn’t understand why exactly this was considered one of the best scripts of the year- maybe just because it had an all-star cast spewing every word of it. MARGIN CALL is a slightly above average minimalist drama that has some hard hitting moments, but for the first half it’s mostly just a broken record repeating the chorus over and over again.
The film chronicles the events that lead up to the great stock market collapse a few years back. The jest of the film is that a risk analyst stumbles upon a troubling formula that has the company he works for in way over its head and the corporate fat cats on the top floor of the company make an executive decision that causes the market to collapse. My dumbing down of the plot fits in perfect harmony with the script for the first half as every other character asks for the consequences of this “oversight” to be explained to them in terms they understand. There’s a reason I am not making the big bucks in the stock market and understanding every word of what these people say is why you won’t see me there anytime soon.
The cast of MARGIN CALL is a dream for just about any filmmaker and they all play characters that for better or worse I just had an overwhelming feeling to punch them all in the face. They aren’t all immoral and heartless but the ones that are have that stench of greed that sticks to every character they come in contact with. I could have used more Stanley Tucci cause he was one of the more redeemable characters, however outside of how I felt about the characters everyone in the cast does a great job. There is no real main character as it switches from one character to another- it starts off seeming that Zachary Quinto is the lead but even he kind of takes a back seat once the first half of the film has run its course. On a standout note I would have to say that Jeremy Irons plays the part of a slimeball very admirably.
Back to the writing- the script is not completely terrible I just don’t see it being one of the best of 2011. For a majority of the first half of the film it is one character explaining the situation to another then that character explaining it to his boss then that boss explaining it another level up and culminating in getting everyone in one room to explain it all over again. Also as each character explains it to the next the person hearing the explanation always says something along the lines of “explain it to me like I’m a small child” and the explanation- at least to me- never really seems to be all that dumbed down. The script also seems to be the record holder for characters saying the phrase “it’s a bit more complicated than that.” Passed the first half things get more interesting once all the explaining is done and the scheming and fixing gets set in motion and that’s where I think the script’s strengths are.
I don’t believe that MARGIN CALL had the outright quality to really stand with some of the best movies of the year, but it does have its moments mostly due to the fantastic cast. The film doesn’t aim to make a star out of anyone specifically but the performances from everyone all around make the film fall on the right side of quality over being completely forgettable. If the first half exercise in over explanation had been widdled down a bit I would have been way more engaged and on the border of possibly loving MARGIN CALL.