Let’s address the elephant in the room: Kevin Spacey. This is his first film shot after the would-be career ending allegations of last year. Choosing a film called Billionaire Boys Club would seem crude given the nature of those allegations. The disgraced House of Cards star has taken on a character as unsympathetic as his real life persona. It’s unlikely to fire up any further press, outside the weirdness of its name and the fetishized boyish main characters, but here we are. And those of you still participating in a boycott will be pleased to know the film opened poorly. It made $126 dollars in its first day of box office. For a movie obsessed with get rich quick schemes and Wall Street, it is certainly market averse.
It must not have always been this way. James Cox wanted to make The Wolf on Wall Street, and so he did. It must be most frustrating to young Ansel Elgort—with unlimited potential and two back-to-back roles with Spacey in Baby Driver and Billionaire Boys Club. It would seem he’s been unduly anchored to the same press. For Spacey, this is likely the end but for Elgort, the future is wide open for a fantastic career.
Elgort is paired nicely with Taron Egerton here, as a couple of middle class boys who fumble their way into a Ponzi scheme. Based on a true story, they weave their way into a mess of predicaments, becoming “paper rich and cash poor” by way of their harebrained schemes. These actors almost have something like a self-evident bromance that makes Billionaire Boys Club profuse fun to watch, dampened only by the leering Spacey. We can say there’s the core of a resplendently fun little drama in here, if we overlook the subtext of what has happened.
It’s not all good news. Elgort has far better chemistry with his moneyed cohort than his romantic interest in a badly used Emma Roberts. She does a somber job with a tactless script, almost certainly miscast or just relegated to a bad part. It does not seem to be her fault personally anyway. The storyline also falters the deeper it goes, forging on without clear motivations to drive our engagement.
Billionaire Boys Club treads familiar territory. From its opening salvo of “getting rich isn’t for the money but about respect,” we know what it has to say. It’s about the rarefied air of the mega-rich who operate within their own gravity and without ethics or consideration for others. This is its own genre post-Social Network and another one of those. It makes a good time of fitting in and the leads have some of the best on-screen chemistry this year. If you can overlook the pressing questions of whether this is a good thing to support, there is a pretty good movie here. It’s almost a shame that’s not the story attached to it.