REVIEW: The Pricey, Oversized, and Slightly Tense ‘All The Money In The World’ is the kind of film J. Paul Getty would have made


Director: Ridley Scott (Alien Covenant, The Martian, American Gangster)

Writer: David Scarpa (The Last Castle, The Day the Earth Stood Still [2008]) Based on the book “Painfully Rich” by John Pearson

Starring: Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, and Charlie Plummer.

Plot: After the grandson of the richest man in the history of the world is kidnapped by an organized crime syndicate, his devoted mother desperately attempts to convince his wealthy grandfather, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty to pay the ransom. When he refuses, she allies herself with his business manager and former CIA operative Fletcher Chase to set her son free, or convince Getty to change his mind before it’s too late. *Based on a True Story.

Review: Intertextuality is the name of the game when it comes to critic reviews these days. Why bother reviewing the actual movie you’ve seen when you can lob bold proclamations about the ‘what’: thematic material, structure and intentions, or chide it for what it doesn’t say, never mind the ‘how’, or actual content in its message. Sometimes the thematic subtext of a movie can be equal if not more fascinating. Sometimes going for it like in the recent Star Wars, can be a complete mistake. And sometimes, such as this rare case, the principle of filmmaking itself is an achievement.

It’s likely that All The Money in the World will be more known for its filmmakers’ audacity to scrub former starring actor, the now disgraced Kevin Spacey out of the final picture upon completion, and completely reshot six weeks from release than the film itself. To paraphrase Jean Paul Getty in the film, ‘Everyone has their price, and the rest of their life is spent coming to terms with what that price is.’

Kevin Spacey, a two-time Oscar-winning actor brought a certain gravity to the film that’s noted in both his final line reading in the fantastic first trailer (shown below) and the $10 million dollars it cost to scrub him from the film. Fortunately as is often the case in cinema there is room for multiplicity and Christopher Plummer gives a career best performance as J. Paul Getty. Instead of playing the character as a cold-hearted scrooge like Spacey often does or he himself literally did earlier this year, the 88 year old Plummer finds some oddball joy to Getty playing him lighter with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. From the moment he is introduced to the main character you can tell there is something almost dangerous about his seemingly at first aloofness, a trait people often see in billionaires. As for the rest of the actors in the film, Michelle Williams does reliably great work and Mark Wahlberg is there.

If you were wondering why none of the film’s praises mention his name it’s because he’s not good, but that is not to say he isn’t entertaining. Perhaps the relaxed cool he brought to Charlie Croker in The Italian Job or even Max Payne would have been a better choice than his “Insecure Alpha Male” oscar-nominated routine from another prestige pic The Departed. Some of his baffling line readings include panicky statements like “I’m on my own side!” despite being hired as a billionaire’s advisor/ business manager and assigned confidante to the distressed mother. Almost everyone else, including the kidnappers are sympathetic toward the kidnapped kid so his choice could read as dangerous, but instead it comes across as baffling as his character’s need for glasses. It’s at least interesting even if it doesn’t quite work. His standoffishness makes sense in his opening scene showing his resourcefulness but the follow-through on his character is inconsistent. I imagine it got lost on the chaotic cutting room floor.

There are a few interesting scenes, almost all involve Plummer’s J. Paul Getty. The lone standout is a mutilation scene featuring another Plummer (Charlie, no relation) as John Paul Getty III, his grandson. The body horror aspect equally recalls director Ridley Scott’s last feature Alien Covenant as well as his mostly forgotten Leonardo Dicaprio starrer Body of Lies from 2008. The commitment to showing the gruesomeness our protagonist must endure even as we cringe is thrilling not just because for once something actually happens in the movie, but because it is one of the few times the thematic purposes of the film recognizably line up to visually tell the story. It’s the one time we see the younger generation unfairly pay the price for the older generation’s decisions. We see a difference of value in reaction to it from all the players. It shakes the elder Getty but it is not enough, Gail Getty is horrified, and Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg) is ready to negotiate or cut losses. The rest of the film is full of semi-meaningless occasionally interesting negotiations and dialogue trading that takes awhile but eventually gets to the point, and your enjoyment of it all depends on how you value your time.

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To do and perform what Ridley Scott (at 80 years of age no less) has done on such a public and immediate level and to do so with confidence and without much hesitation requires a certain amount of experience, skill and expertise. It’s a calculable and risky move for a director to be able to accomplish it, and the studio to greenlight it. It’s admirable that everyone played along and the actors reshot it for free, ironic considering it’s about the nature of greed and its script bites off more than it can chew. The oversized film does go on a bit too long, but it’s still one for the books and a memorable one regardless, and not just for the money spent. In how high they decided to value the film by reshooting it, making a completely different casting choice and still turning in great and affective performances is equal if not more valuable than the film itself. Either way the buyer wins and I think that is a good deal the Getty’s would have made.

Production Budget: $40 million dollars

Distributor: Tristar Pictures (a division of Sony)


True to Life Quote:

My idea of credibility is primarily self-imposed… what are you WILLING to live with as a human being? And there’s things I’m just not willing to live with–and I won’t. And if it means that I stop and find something else in life that interests me or challenges me, so be it.

I’m trying to do something with my success which is bigger than myself. I’m no longer interested in my personal career. I am interested in the impact I can have on a lot of other people’s careers and on audiences. – Kevin Spacey

Trivia:

Kevin Spacey Played ‘Von Trapp’ in High School production of the sound of music, Christopher Plummer’s most famous role.

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