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Culture > Entertainment

Netflix Original “Fair Play” is an Insane Movie: Satirical Commentary Regarding Toxic Masculinity 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

Recently, Netflix released a new original movie starring Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Erenreich and Eddie Marsan. One fateful Sunday it adorned my homepage at the right place and time and I clicked it. To this day I could not tell you if that was a good decision or a bad one, but it was one of deep impact, certainly. Going in blind with no idea what this movie was about only added to its utter insanity. If you haven’t seen it I would recommend watching it and coming back to this article if you want to understand the full extent of what I went through. HOWEVER, I want to give a strong content warning because a lot of the actions were very misogynistic and hard to watch, and there was a depiction of assault. Please watch only at your own discretion. 

Okay, a brief description: the movie follows a couple working under the same company. They hold equal positions of lower staff and have been forced to keep their relationship entirely secret because it is against company policy. A promotion is on the table and the male lead, played by Alden Erenreich, thinks he is a shoe-in. His fiancée, played by Phoebe Dynevor, gets the promotion instead. Madness ensues. The opening scene in and of itself was chaotic, messy, and genius when comparing it to the rest of the film. I want to say both actors did a phenomenal job in the portrayal of this relationship from the opening title screen to the end credits. In the very first scene everything seems perfect between them. Luke seems to be an ideal man: untouched by other mens attentions toward his partner (Emily) and madly in love with her. He proposes in the bathroom on a night out and everything seems perfect. Of course, the audience soon learns about the complicated work dynamic shared between them as we see a complete shift in their demeanor. They go from two people obviously and passionately in love with each other to practical strangers as they enter their place of work: nothing but a casual acquaintance to each other. 

Emily soon learns about one of the higher ups at the company being let go and hears workplace gossip that Luke is next in line for the position. Luke being her fiance, she is naturally thrilled for him and tells him immediately. Their relationship only grows from that news, every element enhanced when the man is advancing. Everything seems right until Emily is called in the middle of the night to meet her boss. Long story short, the gossip about Luke was just that: gossip. He was never even close for being up for the position, utterly unremarkable. Emily was the one advancing, and suddenly she was Luke’s boss. 

This is when the movie gets infuriating. Upon hearing the news about this role reversal Luke embodies bitterness and resentment. Their relationship quickly escalates from bad to worse, each scene spiraling further into insanity. I won’t get into every terrible thing he does, but I will outline a few of this man’s crimes. If I wasn’t more obvious before *SPOILER ALERT*.Right off the bat he assumes there must be some ulterior motive in promoting her, believing it impossible that she earned it honestly, that she was simply better than him. He insinuated that the boss promoted her to try to get in her pants, then just flat out accused her of cheating with him. He gave her bad advice as an employee to make her look incompetent. He could no longer perform in bed because he couldn’t stand the power dynamic with her as his boss. He belittled her in the other elements of their lives together to make her less secure. When all of these aggressions did not satisfy him he outed their relationship to get her fired and assaulted her at their engagement party. 

In the end, Emily finally snaps, accepting how weak, pathetic, and malevolent the supposed love-of-her-life was. Shockingly, he still does not apologize. Their lives are both entirely in shambles. He humiliated and tarnished her reputation to her colleagues, family, and even herself. He ended their relationship over a promotion and still thought he was in the right. The movie concludes by acting on a ridiculous impulse, but I am kind of glad it did. Emily holds him at knifepoint until he cries and begs on his knees for forgiveness. She slashes him a few times until he says “I’m nothing” which, in my opinion, was the most satisfying part of the whole movie. At that point he seems to almost wake up from a dream, accepting his own inferiority. He cleans his own blood from the floor and leaves. Despite the somewhat happy ending (in my opinion) this movie was beyond maddening. It was meant to be satirical commentary, taking a situation to an absolute extreme, but honestly a lot of Luke’s actions were vile, but not unbelievable. The only part that truly was unreal was the ending, the only time Emily stood up to Luke. I think that in itself speaks to the lengths toxic masculinity stretches and how much we collectively accept. I really don’t know if I recommend this movie or not. In a lot of ways it bothered me beyond belief, but it also impacted me enough to write this, so I will leave it up to you. If you do watch it, be prepared to think about it nonstop for a week. 

Hello! My Name is Madeline Malak, I am from Redding California and a third year at UC Davis. I major in History, but I have always had a passion for literature whether that be reading others work or writing my own. My favorite book is The Count Of Monte Cristo. Some of my other interests include movie reviewing, listening to music, and being super funny, cool, and awesome.