The scenario in writer-director Chloe Domont’s Fair Play wants to be bold. What would you do if your boss was a woman… who was also, whoa, your fiancée? Ostensibly, the film regards the flip side of this question too (e.g. how hard it is to be a girl boss trying to have it all), but not in a way that adds up to anything provocative—or even new.
Emily (Phoebe Dyneover) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) are the couple in question. They live together while working at the same Wall Street firm, and as such must keep their relationship a secret due to company policy. (One wonders how HR didn’t put it together: wouldn’t they share a home address?) After Emily gets a promotion Luke feels should be his, we watch their relationship come apart, racing through stages of jealousy and resentment so fast it’s amazing they could have ever been in the same room. Through it all, Domont wants to criticize the pressurized boy’s club energy of Wall Street (led by an icy Eddie Marsan), but she also revels in Emily’s rise up the corporate ladder. There’s just no way to have this both ways.
That Ehrenreich’s Luke ends up coming off worse in Fair Play is no surprise—the systems at work are indeed patriarchal in nature. Yet Domont’s film is incapable of interrogating Emily’s role in that same system. Her embrace of the desire to dominate doesn’t make her the winner here. In fact, the truth is uglier: these fools deserve each other.