Sundance 2023: Chloe Domont's 'Fair Play' is an Extraordinary Thriller
by Alex Billington
January 22, 2023
It is time for men get out of the way of women. One of the best thrillers at Sundance this year is Fair Play, the feature film debut of filmmaker Chloe Domont. Sitting through this screening at Sundance 2023 was an experience of its own. It was the second screening (not even the first premiere!) and the audience still went nuts for it. They gave it two standing ovations at the end, shouting "bravo! bravo!" as the filmmaker & actors took the stage. And this was genuine applause, deserving enthusiastic praise for a film that rocked me to my core. The best part was listening to all of the audible gasps and uncomfortable shifting as certain scenes play out and the story unfolds, everyone's rapt attention fixated on the screen. Step out of the way Uncut Gems, Fair Play has entered the room. And she isn't going to take any shit anymore. This film deserves to be talked about and become a huge hit, shoving Gordon Gecko out of the way while proclaiming "it's my time now."
Written & directed by Chloe Domont, who has mainly worked in TV before this (on "Ballers", "Billions"), she explained during the screening Q&A that it was inspired by her own experiences with misogynistic men looking down upon her. She deserves all the acclaim coming her way now, as this film absolutely proves she has the skills, she has the intelligence, she has the vision, and she is going to conquer cinema now. Perhaps she has been ready all along. Bring it on, I am all for her rise. Fair Play stars actors Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich as two workers at a powerful hedge fund in New York. They're also secretly a couple, as office relationships are against company policy, but they're also extremely ambitious. Both want to get that promotion, and when Emily gets the gig that everyone wants, everything begins to fall apart. This is when it becomes Uncut Gems by way of Wall Street Bros getting super upset that a woman has been promoted over them. Incredible to watch it unfold and it's perfectly shot and edited and setup – an extraordinary thriller.
Fair Play is one of these great films where I do not like any of the characters in it but it's still entertaining as hell to watch. Built around a brilliant script to start with, it's near perfectly directed and infused with just the right tension and energy and anxiety to push it to the highest levels of cinematic excellence. This does not need to be a film about the kindest, best people fighting against assholes. Dynevor's Emily is no perfect person either, but not only is that realistic (almost everyone has flaws and dark sides - come on folks), that's part of what makes this such a thrilling film to enjoy. Her ambition is what matters, her drive to succeed, to prove to all those (men) around her that it's not her looks but her actual talent that is propelling her to great heights. Yes, she succeeds at being a greedy Wall Street schmuck, but whatever, this is not the right film to analyze that side of the story. Even horrible characters can speak the truth at times, and the dialogue in this one pulls off that impossibly delicate authenticity making it even more riveting to experience and applaud.
I absolutely loved this film, I felt the exhilaration build inside of me. I immediately joined in the rapturous standing ovation at the end. The score by composer Brian McOmber gives it the seriously intense energy it needs to follow in the footsteps of a film like Uncut Gems. Both of these are New York City thrillers about high stakes decisions that could send the protagonist either to heaven or hell. In my honest opinion, I think Fair Play has the edge of that one. It's subversive in even more ways, and boldly defiant in telling the story of a woman who fucking fought her way up and damn well deserves that fancy office. It's just an amazing film to watch, with refreshingly vibrant NYC cinematography by DP Menno Mans. Best of all - Ehrenreich and Dynevor are exceptional. Especially in the second half, these two unleash the kind of performances that will be remembered forever. I'm convinced, I've seen enough, it's time to step back and hand over the keys to Hollywood to Chloe Domont. It's her world now, I am just another analyst who wants to help her succeed.