Friday, January 19, 2018

Review of ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD: Avaricious Apathy

January 19, 2018

This film was in the headlines lately because of a real life drama regarding its cast. Kevin Spacey already finished his scenes for a major character J. Paul Getty. Since October 2017, Spacey was embroiled in allegations of past sexual assaults. In order to save the box office chances of his film, director Ridley Scott embarked on major reshoots of his film in 10 days last November, with Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty. 

This month, this film was still in the news this time for the issue of gender pay disparity. It was alleged that while Michelle Williams was paid a total of $1,000 for her work during the reshoots, Mark Wahlberg was paid a staggering $1.5 Million! Wahlberg has since announced that he would be donating his reshoot salary to the Time's Up legal fund meant for people who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace

J. Paul Getty was the man who dared to mine the oil out of the Saudi Arabian desert in the late 1940s, and for that he earned his massive fortune. In 1973, his teenage grandson Paul was kidnapped off the streets of Rome for a ransom of $17M. Despite the frantic appeals of Paul's mother Abigail for help, his grandfather J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world, pridefully announced to the press that he would pay the kidnappers nothing.

This kidnapping drama is an intimate look inside the unusual family dynamics of the Gettys. It was clear in the way Ridley Scott told the story that all that money suffocated J. Paul Getty and this family, subjecting them to misery instead of giving them happiness. Much emphasis was given on the elderly Getty's obsession with getting more and more money. He did everything he can to skirt around tax laws via various legal technical manipulations. As his fortune grew, so did his heart grow harder and colder. 

Christopher Plummer portrayed that corruption by greed with scary intensity. His performance is the icy centerpiece of this film, and may well earn him his third Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor since his career gained second wind in his old age. He won the Oscar in the second one of these nominations for "Beginners" back in 2012. As perfectly as Plummer was in this though, there will always be curiosity as to how Kevin Spacey (under thick aging makeup) had done in the original cut. 

4-time Oscar acting nominee Michelle Williams may just earn her fifth in her role here as Abigail Getty. She did the best she can with a role that could have been given more heart than how it was written and executed. This was ironic because the film's script was based on John Pearson's 1995 book "Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty," which told the kidnapping in Gail's point of view. After watching the film, that pay inequality issue was really outrageous because Williams was not only billed first, but she had a more demanding role and more scenes.

I thought Wahlberg's character Fletcher Chase, the elder Getty's security officer and negotiator, was rather extraneous and could have been removed without any marked loss in the story. In any case, Wahlberg was an ill fit to the role and he struggled to give it some semblance of significance, probably to make it look like it was worth his salary. Wahlberg actually only had one scene of importance, a confrontation scene between Chase and his big boss. The way that scene played out, I was not convinced of Chase's sincerity.

Paul Getty was played by 18-year old actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher, despite the remarkable coincidence). You simply could not feel any sympathy for the victim because of his lifeless and unlikable performance. The scenes where young Paul was seen trying to escape from the criminals may be good to spice up the screen with much-needed suspense. However, these did not ring true because of the passive and bland person Paul was built up to be.

Fans of "Cinema Paradiso" (1988) who wonder how teenage Salvatore di Vita looks now may want to watch out for Marco Leonardi who appears here as Mammoliti, the criminal kingpin who bought Paul from the first simpleton Calabrian kidnappers. Interesting also the news coming out how Mammoliti's heirs were complaining about the inaccurate way their antecedent was portrayed, claiming he was a better criminal than how the film showed him to be. Well, that's cinematic license for you.

Overall, the story was interesting, however the storytelling by Ridley Scott was not consistently compelling. It started out well enough as the characters were being introduced. However, it felt long and slow in the middle act, only to be rejuvenated only within the last part when there was some suspense and action to perk things up. Anyhow, production design (with all those art treasures) and costumes (to fit the period) were very nice to look at, even when filmed with a gloomy bluish filter. In the middle of it all, there was Christopher Plummer's chilling portrait of one billionaire's sickening avarice. 6/10. 

No comments:

Post a Comment