Film Review by Kam Williams
Richard Gere’s Services Squandered as Flamboyant Philanthropist with a Hidden Agenda
Filthy-rich Francis Watts (Richard Gere) is every bit as flamboyant as he is altruistic. But the Philadelphia philanthropist also has an annoying personality flaw: a need to interfere in the affairs of the recipients of his charity.
For instance, the meddling bachelor has purchased a home for Olivia (aka “Poodles”) (Dakota Fanning) and Luke (Theo James), newlyweds expecting their first child. Furthermore, he has not only paid off the husband’s medical school loans, but secured the physician a position at a children’s hospital where he serves on the board.
In this case, there’s a logical reason for Franny’s Iargesse, namely, his overwhelming regret about having caused the car accident that claimed the lives of Olivia’s parents. Still, that doesn’t explain why the creepy control freak feels entitled to crawl into bed with the couple or to pressure the young doctor to write him illegal prescriptions for the painkiller he’s become addicted to.
That is the intriguing point of departure of The Benefactor, a moralizing melodrama marking the writing and directorial debut of Andrew Renzi (unless you count Fishtail, a documentary he made about life on a Montana cattle ranch). Here, unfortunately, Renzi squanders the talents of A-listers Richard Gere and Dakota Fanning in service of a disappointing script that even their considerable talents couldn’t help salvage.
Gere’s Franny is an ostentatious dandy sporting a flowing silver mane who alternates between making bizarre and generous gestures. However, there is obviously a big hole in his soul but the picture doesn’t deign to divulge the source of his angst . No, that’s saved for the silly soap opera’s big reveal which, quite frankly, wasn’t worth the wait.
Meanwhile, Fanning isn’t given much to do beyond a variety of vapid reaction shots to Franny’s over-the-top antics. Oh, and her belly keeps expanding as her pregnancy progresses, too, if wearing different rubber suits counts as method acting.
An unconvincing melodrama indicting money’s power to manipulate as the root of all evil.
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 92 minutes
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films