The Benefactor

 

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Richard Gere gives a flamboyant performance as the eponymous philanthropist in this

study of guilt and its misguided consequences.


If something seems too good to be true, it invariably is. Francis L. Watts (Richard Gere) is an eccentric philanthropist who feels indebted to Olivia (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of his two best friends. So, when she turns up in Philadelphia with a new husband in tow, he goes out of his way to pave their lives with gold. He sets up Luke (Theo James) with a position at a local children’s hospital, pays off his student loan and even buys the couple a sizeable house in the suburbs. He has the money, they need all the help they can get, so why not? But are there not strings attached to even the most well-intentioned displays of charity?

 

Benefactor, The

The King of Philadelphia: Richard Gere   

 

It’s understandable why Richard Gere was drawn to this flamboyant figure. With a beard and shoulder-length hair, a walking stick and bravura manner, he is unlike anything the actor has played before. Francis – or ‘Franny’ as he prefers to be known – is a character to die for. Of course, he has his demons, is addicted to morphine and haunted by a past misfortune, but cloaks his weaknesses in a demeanour of grandiose extravagance. And the closer Luke gets to the old crank, the more uncomfortable he feels.

 

Gere’s committed performance and the broad strokes of the narrative rein us in for a while, abetted by the sumptuous cinematography of Joe Anderson. First-time director’s Andrew Renzi’s script is also not without its canny insights. Just because someone gives and gives doesn’t make them a good person. So, what is the true measure of a good man? As it turns out, Franny is as addicted to guilt as he is to morphine and there are conditions attached to his altruism. The true Samaritan should expect nothing in return for his good deeds. The Benefactor dishes out a compelling scenario, and Richard Gere is more than up to the task, but his character’s histrionics do get wearisome by the end and conceal the reality of an enigma trapped in his own mythology.

  

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Clarke Peters, Cheryl Hines, Dylan Baker.

 

Dir Andrew Renzi, Pro Jason Michael Berman, Thomas B. Fore and Jay Schuminsky, Screenplay Andrew Renzi, Ph Joe Anderson, Pro Des Ethan Tobman, Ed Dean C. Marcial and Matthew Rundell, Music Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Costumes Malgosia Turzanska.

 

Audax Films/Big Shoes Media/Magnolia Entertainment/Soaring Flight Productions/TideRock Media/Treehouse Pictures-Arrow Films.

92 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 26 February 2016. Cert. 15.