THR: Gibson comeback stays on pace with edgy comedy about ... wealthy "Rothchilds"

I’m with Jake Tapper on this story … wut?

It’s not the Onion, either. The Hollywood Reporter notes the development of the project as a socially aware “black comedy.” The concept sounds potentially appealing to those concerned about income inequality, the unfairness of the One Percenters, and pretty much everyone involved in class warfare. The title, though … and the star 

The actor’s latest project and his third hitting the Croisette — Rothchild — will see him star alongside Shia LaBeouf, with Jon S. Baird (Stan & Ollie) in the director’s chair.

The black comedy will center on Becket Rothchild (Shia LaBeouf) — the bastard child of a mother, who in eloping with a jazz musician was cast out from the Rothchild family and its vast fortune — who was never given a fair lot in life. All grown up and armed with charisma, intelligence and a flair for opportunity, it does not take long for Becket to fully grasp the immense gap between his situation and the richest 1 percent, which should be his birthright. He has a plan.

There are precisely nine Rothchild family members who stand between him and his fortune, including Whitelaw (Gibson), his sinister grandfather. How hard could it be for them each to meet with an “accident”? With the unique advantage of being unknown to any of them, Becket penetrates the weird and twisted lives of his super-rich kin amongst frat boys, hipster artists and reality TV stars. The only thing that threatens to get in the way is love, both old and new.

Variety confirms the project and its satire of class warfare and family politics:

“Rothchild” is being produced by Los Angeles-based production company Unified Pictures. Keith Kjarval and Tyler Jackson will produce alongside Black Box Management’s Lowell Shapiro and Mike Dill who represent the writer.

“Rothchild is a satirical and thrilling ride, and I am elated to be working with a filmmaker like Jon Baird, who not only has an incredible track record of guiding award-winning performances, but is crafting this film to be an action packed cautionary tale on wealth and power,” said Kjarval.

HanWay Films MD Gabrielle Stewart added: “The divide between the super-rich and the rest of the world is an ever growing one, and it’s both fun and fascinating to delve into its inner bowels along with our hero trying to scramble to the top and claim his piece.”

There are a few points not noted in either report. First, the Rothschilds are an ancient Jewish family of bankers who at one time were the wealthiest private citizens in the world. They were the 19th century equivalent to J. Paul Getty and the Rockefellers, and the descendants are still among the world’s wealthiest people. They are also the subject of a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about world Jewish control, which practically anyone with an e-mail inbox has seen in one form or another. The family name itself practically substitutes for explanations of these kooky conspiracy theories.

Next, we have Mel Gibson — a talented filmmaker and actor who nonetheless has a certain reputation regarding Jews. Gibson later apologized and insisted that he didn’t mean what he said during his drunken rant, and has managed to make a Hollywood comeback with excellent work behind the camera.  He has more recently made appearances in front of the camera too, working his way back into the good graces of the audience. His anti-Semitic comments seemed relegated to the past, chalked up in large part to Gibson’s battle with alcoholism.

With Rothchild on the schedule, though, expect all of those issues to make a very big comeback. Dropping the ‘s’ from the Rothschild name is not going to fool anyone. Why the producers decided on using this name is impossible to determine. Maybe the screenplay is about anti-Semitism too and the pushback against conspiracy theorists, but the description of the plot certainly doesn’t make it sound that way. Couldn’t they have called it RockfellerBufet? I’d have settled for Kenndy, anyway.

Or, as Talya Zax suggests at The Forward, maybe cast someone else in the Sinister Grandpa Rothchild role. Better yet, cast no one at all:

What could the “Rothchild” crew possibly be thinking, except that giving every Jew in the world a simultaneous heart attack is a surefire marketing strategy? It would have been so easy to let, say, Anthony Sher play the villain of what producer Keith Kjarval called “a cautionary tale on wealth and power” — a cautionary tale that invokes, just as a reminder, a staggering number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the wealth and power of a famous Jewish family. It would have been so easy to cast F. Murray Abraham, or — just hear me out — to not make the movie about a bunch of Rothchilds. There are so many ways in which this film’s development could have avoided making me develop the expression and hairstyle of someone who has just been electrocuted.

I’ll go out on a limb and bet that this one goes into “turnaround.”