Michael Winterbottom’s latest movie is a fast-paced satirical comedy about a story that in reality is far from funny. It’s the very skimpily veiled story of notorious Brit billionaire businessman Sir Philip Green who the British Parliament named as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’. Green used nefarious means to buy Topshop and half a dozen other retail labels that turned the exploitation of developing-world workers into an empire of cheap discount fashion.
Like the present US President so many of the businesses Green owned crashed leaving millions of pounds of debts , thousands of people unemployed, after he had personally raided their assets , particular well-stocked pension funds.
The script by Winterbottom focuses on the farcical nature of the story and the setting is the extravagant 60th Birthday Celebrations of Sir Philip McCreadie (rhymes with greedy) played by a manic Steve Coogan. He has taken over part of a Greek Island to have a Colosseum built on the beach where there will be Roman Gladiator games complete with a real (and very bored) lion.
The story unfolds as despite all the money thrown at it, the party preparations are getting more out of control by the minute. Meanwhile Winterbottom intersperses this with flashbacks of how a young ruthless McCreadie screwed over everyone every step of the way in business tio build his fortune. There is a sobering clip of how one of the over-crowded sweatshops he used in Pakistan caught fire killing many of the workers …… something that happened in real life.
His ex-wife (Isla Fisher) jetts in on a launch with her latest beau; his doting mother (Shirley Henderson) is never far from his side; and his pretty-but-dim daughter (Sophie Cookson) is also there for the celebrations and is being filmed for a cheesy reality show about her life.. These are the only ones in this scenario who dote on McCreadie and worship both him and his successes. On the other hand all the employees (including a very reluctant biographer) quietly grin and bear the billionaires obnoxious and condescending behavior for the sake of their wage packets.
McCreadie is determined that nothing will get in the way of the party and when his famous guests start to cancel after they have read of his latest business scandal in the tabloids, he tells his PR to hire some look alikes to stand in. One of the most hilarious scenes is when he inspects his new ‘guests’ he questions the presence of a fake George Michael as the singer had died a few years previously.
McCreadie also discovers that the public beach where ihe s holding this extravaganza is also occupied by some homeless Syrian refugees, who he cons to leave in a move that will backfire before the night is over.