A star is born—or at least about to hit puberty—in Paul Weitz’s wry comedy about an affluent family in the 1980s that is brought up short when Dad is arrested for “misusing information” on Wall Street. As 12-year-old Charlie, a kind of half-pint Alex P. Keaton, Conor Donovan openly steals Privilege with such irresistible charm that Ivan Boesky himself would blush. Whether drafting a letter to the Times protesting his father’s innocence or selling his socks to defray the family’s umpteen-million-dollar debts, Donovan shows us a child stubbornly insisting that the world correspond to his idea of it even as his surest beliefs are losing credibility.
Donovan is ably supported by Harry Zittel as Porter, the older brother who eyes upcoming college applications, and a future like his father’s, with a wariness masquerading as indifference. Less incisively drawn are the adult roles—especially the boys’ disappointed mother (Carolyn McCormick, who seems to be sourcing her character from a fierce underwire bra).
More a portrait of sibling solidarity than a reflection on moneyed white entitlement, Privilege understands true insider trading to be the sly, coded exchanges the brothers use to express affection for each other. In the end, it’s this verbal currency that yields Weitz’s highest theatrical dividends.