Fair Play - Photo Netflix
Fair Play – Photo Netflix

In “Fair Play,” first-time feature filmmaker Chloe Domont introduces a workplace/erotic melodrama that exemplifies a contemporary dilemma facing many ambitious, highly competitive couples.

The first scene introduces Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich), who are into carnal lust, if not love. And when an engagement ring drops out of Luke’s pocket, Emily realizes that he’s serious about marriage.

Excited, she texts her mother, even though both Emily and Luke realize their steamy relationship must be kept secret since they are both analysts for One Crest Capital, a high-powered Wall Street hedge fund, and their affair violates company policy.

Emily is a top-tier Harvard-graduate whose gut instincts, coupled with her capacity for extensive research, have impressed Campbell (Eddie Marsan), her gruffly demanding boss.  In contrast, while Luke dutifully delves for deals, he’s developed a reputation for coming up with duds.

When a coveted PM (portfolio manager) promotion opens up, there are rumors that Luke is next-in-line, but Emily gets the post, along with an impressive office.

While Luke is deeply disappointed, he’s not a misogynist. He’s supportive of Emily yet determined to better his own future chances by becoming absorbed in a self-help book about entitlement strategy. Nevertheless, his simmering jealousy and resentment surface in caustic ‘digs,’ targeting Emily’s appearance/demeanor.

Given the power dynamics and their private vs. public perceptions, romance inevitably hits the rocks, along with their once-hyperactive sex life, turning their respective existences into an escalating nightmare – in and out of the office.

Screenwriter/director Chloe Domont (“Billions,” Clarice”), working with Dutch cinematographer Menno Mans, astutely concocts a compelling psychological thriller for the post-#MeToo era, imbuing the ensuing histrionics with a veil of validity, as both Phoebe Dynevor  (“Bridgerton”) and Alden Ehrenreich (“Oppenheimer”) deliver electrifying, combative performances,

What’s fascinating about “Fair Play” is how its gender dynamics court controversy. Viewers will react in varying ways, often reflecting their own sexism-in-the-workplace experiences, I suspect.

FYI: Netflix acquired this film for $20 million. At a press conference, Chloe Domont revealed that her hazing as a novice television writer on the male-dominated “Balls” inspired Domont to script Emily’s toxic cocktail interludes and the visit to a strip club.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Fair Play” is an insightful, adult-entangling 8, streaming on Netflix.

Elemental - Photo Pixar
Elemental – Photo Pixar

After opening in theaters this summer, Pixar’s animated, family-friendly “Elemental” is now available on Disney+. Posing the question: what happens when a woman made of fire falls in love with a man made of water?

In Element City, where anthropomorphic fire, water, land and air residents live in different neighborhoods, fiery Ember Lumen (voiced by Leah Lewis) is a spunky, clever young woman whose friendship with laid-back, aqueous building-inspector Wade Ripple (voiced by Mamoudou Athie) challenges what she’s been taught: namely, “elements don’t mix.”

As the story goes, Ember’s immigrant parents – Bernie & Cinder (voiced by Ronnie del Carmen & Shila Omi) – came by ship from Fire Land and, when they arrived in the huge “wets only” metropolis, they were turned away by prejudiced landlords.

Indeed, in front of Dry Leaves’ home, there was even a “No Fire” sign, impelling resolute Bernie to proclaim he will never let the “world water us down,”

But when Ember meets preppy Wade, she learns that he comes from a wealthy family of suspended liquids. At first, they spar – but – then a forbidden romance ignites between heat and H20.

Directed by Peter Sohn, the cross-cultural, high-concept “Romeo and Juliet” romantic comedy, inspired by the periodic chart of elements recalled from science class, the generational conflict script was written by John Hoberg, Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh. 

But the pun-filled dialogue is a bit clunky – which seems inevitable when the villain turns out to be urban civic engineering, as a wall threatens to break and cause devastating flooding. 

The distinctive, detailed animation is visually splendid – which is what one might expect from Pixar’s first theatrical feature since the Covid-19 pandemic. Pixar’s longtime chief creative officer, John Lasseter, departed in 2018 (he is now at Skydance Animation), leaving veteran director Pete Docter (“Up,” “Inside Out”) as the studio’s top executive.

Even the closing credits are inventive, accented by Lighterfinger candy and Sizzlemint gum.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Elemental” sparks a stunning 7, streaming exclusively on Disney+ or available to buy as a Blue-ray/DVD on Amazon.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.