I HAVE several good reasons to watch the film, “All the Money in the World” when or if it finally makes it to the multiplex.
The movie will most likely arrive first as a pirated or licensed DVD feature; the local distributor may not be too keen to promote it in the country because of its difficult subject. If they pass on it, they would be surely mistaken.
“All the Money” has all the makings of a cult hit in our rags-and-riches milieu. With this film, I believe nothing less than actual viewing in a movie theater is deserved. It is both historic (true-to-life and one for the books) and good by most critical accounts.
Let me count the reasons why I consider this movie a “must see.”
J. Paul Getty: If you can count your money
My first reason for wanting to see this film is oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, the character as well as the historical personality.
It was Getty who once declared mordantly: “If you can actually count your money, then you’re not a rich man.”
This has tantalized me, because all my life I have always been able to count my money, from paycheck to paycheck. What will it be like to face an embarrassment of riches? Who among the country’s 15 or so billionaires will dare declare that he cannot count his money, so he or she can be officially admitted into the select company of the rich.
And who will dare match J. Paul Getty in his well-documented parsimony, which forms a key part of the new movie’s plot?
“All the Money” narrates the intriguing story of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty 3rd, Getty’s grandson, in Rome.
The kidnappers ask the victim’s mother, Gail Harris, for $17 million in ransom. When the distraught mother truthfully says that she doesn’t have that kind of money, the kidnappers’ contact person tells her to ask the boy’s grandfather, the nominal possessor of “all the money in the world.”
But Getty senior doesn’t see himself that way. Suspecting that the boy orchestrated his own kidnapping and pathologically attached to his oil wealth (he is depicted washing his own underwear in his luxury hotel room to save money), Getty claims he doesn’t want to set a precedent that would put his 13 other grandchildren at risk.
But he’s also capable of saying, with a completely straight face, “I’ve never been more vulnerable financially. I have no money to give.”
I want to see this man’s inflexibility on film, and the pain he heartlessly inflicts on his family.
Christopher Plummer: Kevin who?
The second reason why I will watch ‘All the Money” is Christopher Plummer, an actor whom I have always liked since “The Royal Hunt of the Sun,” particularly now when he largely appears in supporting roles and characters his age. I want to see how Plummer successfully substituted for the scandal-plagued Kevin Spacey in the film, which was already completed and being readied for release when Kevin bombed out.
The director Ridley Scott made the decision to replace Spacey with Plummer with just six weeks to go before the film’s scheduled December release.
Plummer, much closer in age to J. Paul Getty than Spacey was in the role, has turned in a remarkable performance as a marvelous miser and rich man.
Together with his production team, including his cinematographer and editor, Scott reshot and integrated 22 new scenes into the finished product in record time at a reported cost of $10 million.
By most critics’ assessment, the integration of the new scenes, the erasure of Spacey and the appearance of Plummer is seamlessly done. The film is fascinating and gripping. By its end, nobody will remember that there was once a Kevin Spacey at the center of this film.
Ridley Scott: On top of his craft
The third reason why I must see this film is Ridley Scott. Now 83, this is a director who is clearly on top of his craft.
Scott has directed and written some of the finest films during the last quarter century: “Gladiator”, “Thelma and Louise”, “Blade Runner”, among others. And he is still raring to shoot some more.
In “All the Money,” Scott has combined a family’s history of family dysfunction with a true-crime drama.
Adapted from John Pearson’s nonfiction work, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, the film script is true to the broad outlines of the story while feeling free to dramatize specific incidents.
Michelle Williams: An elevating presence
Lest I be slapped with a charge of gender discrimination and political incorrectness, I will add a fourth reason for watching “All the Money in the World”: Michelle Williams.
Michelle is one actress who, even when she is not the leading lady and only in a supporting role, makes you want to see her films. She is consistently good and moving.
Scott has always had a gift of getting good work from his actors.
In addition to Plummer’s fine performance, “All the Money” is fortunate to have Williams cast as the kidnapped victim’s mother. Williams brings the grieving but resolute mother to life, and elevates the entire film.
Williams’ Gail Harris is a splendid antagonist for Plummer’s J. Paul Getty: her concern for human caring and emotion is a perfect counterweight to the old man’s rigid inflexibility about his fortune.
To keep the mother from causing too much of a fuss, Getty assigns Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), one of his corporate troubleshooters, to get a handle on the situation.
According to Pearson’s book, Chase was “probably the worst emissary the old man could have chosen,” but because “All the Money” feels the need for a quasi-heroic masculine presence, Chase’s missteps are minimized and his action-hero credentials are enhanced.
Some critics have lauded Scott for recreating the frenzy and chaos the Italian press whipped up around the Getty kidnapping. The film never loses sight of the pain Getty’s rigid parsimony causes his family.
This is a movie which I dare say will strike a chord among Filipinos. Silas Marner and J. Paul Getty are truly figures from a different land, different culture, and different time.
I suspect people today do not mind being able to count their money. They just want to always have something to count. It feels good to write here about the movies for a change.