Caroline Friday

Caroline Friday is a novelist and award winning screenwriter with several film projects in development for both television and theatrical distribution. She is also a 2008 Kairos Screenwriting Winner for spiritually uplifting screenplays, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. Caroline currently serves as EVP of Sixth Day Media, LLC, a film finance and production company headquartered in the Atlanta area. She lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and three children and can be found at

At The Movies

Margin Call

Margin CallFor those who have survived working in a cutthroat corporate environment, this movie is a must-see look at the inner workings of the classic dog-eat-dog world of business and money. I am attracted to these stories (like Social Network, which I reviewed in March 2011), probably because I am a survivor of four years as a corporate associate in a big-city law firm. While I didn’t make the kind of money investment bankers make, I was highly compensated and suffered tremendous pressure to perform—lawyers logging enough of the dreaded “minimum billable hours.”

It was a life where weekends, holidays, and vacations could be cancelled at a moment’s notice with no monetary repayment; schedules are determined based on the whim of egotistical partners; and deep, restorative sleep in one’s own bed is a luxury. Just thinking about that oppressive existence makes me feel like I’ve crawled into the depths of a dark, dank prison cell.

Margin Call incorporates an all-star ensemble cast with a wonderful, tightly crafted script by writer-director J.C. Chandor, who is nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay. In an online article about him, he claims to have written a first draft of the script in just four days. Inspired by the market crash in the fall of 2008, this fictional story centers on the eve of the crash and how the decisions of a small group of people started the domino effect that took down such firms as Lehman Brothers in one day.

While the details of how the crash came to pass is complex, the story is crafted simply enough for the average viewer to follow. In a time where Wall Street is blamed for much of the problems in our nation’s economy, Chandor tells a powerfully riveting tale that made me realize how important financial trading is to the growth of our economy. But unfortunately, as the movie relays, greed and carelessness get in the way, which is where our story begins.

The movie starts with the entire trading floor of a New York investment banking firm laying off workers in an unscrupulous, cold-blooded manner. Stanley Tucci, one of the unfortunate victims in the risk management team, is called to a glass-walled conference room where he is given a mediocre severance package, then escorted to his office by security. He quickly gathers his personal belongs and leaves the premises. But before he departs, he gives his associate Zachary Quinto a file that will eventually prove the firm’s serious overexposure, particularly in the area of no-money-down, mortgage-backed securities.

When Quinto calculates the firm’s potential losses, he is astounded to realize that a slight dip in the market would sink

the company in one day. Calling his immediate boss, Paul Bettany, he relays his discovery and the troops are called in from all fronts to convene and plan an emergency strategy. Kevin

Spacey, head of trading, Simon Baker, Spacey’s immediate boss, Demi Moore, head of risk management, and a number of other top guns gather around the boardroom table to determine what to do. And as they convene, a helicopter hovers overhead, bringing the top dog of them all, Jeremy Irons.

If you watch the movie for one reason, let it be Jeremy Irons’s spectacular performance. He is superb as the head of the firm, like a strong, battled-hardened captain intent on rescuing his ship from going down into the depths of bankruptcy. He understands money as not something to be earned but to be made—that it can be manipulated and moved from one place to another, packaged in different ways to increase the speculative value in the market, only to create more money, and then continue through the cycle again.

Combining tragedy, drama, and humor, he plays to his advantage the hold money has on men’s hearts. Careers are tossed aside like excess cargo as plans are made to dump these worthless securities into the market before anyone else comes to the same conclusion. Being smart and being first is his mantra, regardless of who is hurt. If there is a devil character in this movie, then Jeremy Irons is certainly it.

The godlessness of the business of making money is just a reminder of how fortunate I am to have been rescued by the Lord from a similar fate. All of the characters in Margin Call are prisoners of money, and ironically, most of them aren’t even aware of it until a market crash occurs. Once they become personally affected, their hearts are laid bare. Most of them scramble for survival, wanting to take others down with them into the watery grave of loss and humiliation, while others, like Kevin Spacey’s character, realizes that he has sold his soul and tries desperately to get it back.

But alas, it is too late. The devil, Jeremy Irons, demands that he stay with the firm for another twenty-four months, which to Spacey is a lifetime. Because he needs the money, he is obliged to stay. Thirty-four years with a firm, and Spacey has nothing to show for it, not even a nest egg. The final scene has him burying his beloved dog in his ex-wife’s backyard, a metaphor for the little bit of good he had left in his life, and now it is dead. The only tangible evidence of that good is the hole he now digs.

I am reminded of one of the least understood books in the Bible (other than Revelation), Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities,” King Solomon wrote. “All is vanity.” Margin Call makes this scriptural truth crystal clear. A life pursuing money and not centered on the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross is as good as the grave of a most beloved, yet very dead, dog. But unlike Spacey’s character in Margin Call, it’s never too late to turn away from the trappings of the world and accept a new, eternal life in the Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.