If you buy into reductive ideas about generations, The Benefactor -- Andrew Renzi's creepy drama of guilt and charity -- gains much suggestive resonance. Here's Richard Gere, that silvery ur-boomer, the American Gigolo now adrift. His philanthropist may have built a hospital, but he molders in a hotel suite, treating his pains with morphine, his beard as crazy as an Oak Ridge Boy's.
He's stirred to life again by Olivia, played by Dakota Fanning, that ur-millennial. Gere's billionaire feels responsible for the deaths of her parents, and to assuage his guilt he endeavors to give her the world. Now that there's nothing left to build America, this might be the only way a millennial might seize it: find a boomer ready to let some of it go.
The initial conflict is fascinating, and Renz steeps us in discomforts of class and worth. First Franny (Gere) buys Olivia the house in which she grew up. Then Franny gives Luke (Theo James), the father of the child she's carrying, a prestigious job. And then the charismatic creep is forever in their hair, reinvigorated by the fact that they need what he has.
Gere is adept at the showy, defensive poses of a man who only playacts that he's inviting you in. Meanwhile, Fanning's face brightens and dims at the oppressive largesse. Olivia's relieved and dismayed, thrilled and queasy. Fanning glances up against each feeling individually until suddenly, with power, striking all at once.
The drama in the film's first half lies in viewers wondering just what kind of movie it will turn out to be. Sadly, The Benefactor proves less rich as it settles into its actual genre: It's yet another troubled-dude-starts-pulling-it-together tale.