The Last Days of Capitalism
This two-person drama asks a lot of important questions as a rich man pays a woman to spend the weekend with him.
A man staying in a casino hotel penthouse in Vegas pays a woman to sleep with him, then keeps offering her more and more money to continue to stay over the weekend. It may sound like a prurient premise, but writer/director Adam Mervis is actually setting us up for a tantalizing encounter between two people that’s more about the matter between their ears than between their legs.
Mervis disposes with the obvious stuff early on, giving us copious glances at the nude bodies of the man and woman. They are referred to simply that way, without names, though various ones are provided and disposed of during the course of the story.
Their tryst is just the beginning, though.
He (Mike Faila) is in early middle age, in great shape, a classic rich playboy bachelor type. His hands are free of calluses because he’s innocent of hard labor. He’s the sort of guy who isn’t aggressively dickish, but simply has lacked anything like real challenges in this life. So, he has to invent some.
She (Sarah Rose Harper) is much younger, early 20s I’m guessing, lithe and with a mane of long dark hair. But she also has intelligent, probing eyes. Her job is to fulfill the fantasies of men, but she always withholds the key parts of herself.
It begins simply enough: after waking up after hooking up at a casino party the night before, he asks her to stay the rest of the day. Eventually they settle on a price of a few thousand bucks. This gives way to a conversation about the power of markets, and how everything has a price on it, in his estimation.
(It doesn’t take much imagination to see that he’s also talking about her use of her own body.)
What about God? she asks. Does he have a number? Maybe to you, he says, but not to an unbeliever like me.
She takes the money and stays. This extends into the night, and the next day, and beyond. They never actually leave the penthouse, ordering up whatever is wanted or needed: food, clothes, stacks of cash. He talks about meeting his brother at the pool, but they never actually go. We start to wonder when’s the last time he actually left the casino.
He claims to be a painter. But he also knows a whole lot about the commodities market and how to turn around money quickly. For laughs, he gives her $10,000 and then helps her grow it by trading against the Japanese yen. He dares her to use the money to travel to Paris… maybe he’ll even go with her.
It’s all a game to him, until it isn’t.
One of the best scenes is when he challenges her to be mean to him. Say something hurtful because it’s true. It’s a game his dad used to play with him, believing you had to tear someone down in order to build them up. She turns out to be a very quick learner at this game.
I’m not sure what to classify “The Last Days of Capitalism” as. Is it a psychological thriller? A romance? A character study drama? Maybe it doesn’t want or need to be put into any particular box.
Harper and Faila give compelling performances, playing characters who put themselves out there but we’re never quite sure what’s the mask and what’s the real face. It’s an intriguing concept in a movie that will leave you wondering and wanting more.