Thursday, 4 January 2018

All the Money in the World

It seems almost uncanny that, thanks to the controversy surrounding Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer gets to play a role way too similar to the role he played in a film I watched just a month ago: The Man Who Invented Christmas. In that film, Plummer was excellent as Ebenezer Scrooge. Now he plays J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. The title of that film refers to the fact that Getty was (back in 1973, when most of the film’s events took place) not only the richest man in the world but the wealthiest man who had ever lived. But all the money in the world wasn’t enough for Getty, nor was it sufficient to pay a ransom for the release of his kidnapped grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer - no apparent relation), known as Paul.

At the age of seventeen, Paul is vacationing in Rome in the spring of 1973 when he’s kidnapped and held for ransom ($17 million at first). His grandfather refuses to pay a penny of it (supposedly on the grounds that this will lead to further kidnappings), which understandably makes his mother Gail (Michelle Williams) very angry. Gail, who is divorced from John Paul Getty II, has almost no money of her own, so she is left with little recourse until she meets Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg), the man hired by Getty to find and recover his grandson (without paying a ransom). Chace and Gail fly to Rome, where they meet with the police and spend months negotiating with the kidnappers and trying to locate Paul. I shouldn’t say much more than that about the plot.

All the Money in the World is directed by Ridley Scott, which alone should make the film worth watching, but I was disappointed in Scott’s direction as well as in the writing by David Scarpa. There are many good things about All the Money in the World, such as some gorgeous cinematography (especially in Italy), some excellent acting (more below) and some wonderful scenes, but the final result was lacking in spite of this. I think I was particularly bothered by the fact that the story of Getty (Plummer was perfect and almost certainly better than Spacey would have been) fails to become a meaningful part of the narrative thread of the film. Indeed, the film suffers from a variety of structural problems which make it difficult to focus on the story and the characters and hinder any chance at making the film truly compelling.

As I mentioned, some of the performances were outstanding. Williams is as good as Plummer, giving us a very credible Gail Getty, but my favourite performance was that of Romain Duris as Cinquanta, one of the kidnappers and the most sympathetic character in the film. He is the primary reason I felt All the Money in the World was a film worth watching. As for Wahlberg, well, all I can say is I think he’s probably a really nice guy, but I have just never enjoyed his acting. 

All the Money in the World could have been a great film, but to do so, it needed to focus on Getty in a different way, have a clearer ending and have a little more to do say about the horrors of having great wealth. ***. My mug is up.

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