All the Money in the World is a fine example of what can go wrong if you don’t actually have a story to start with. Considering this, it is shocking that Ridley Scott Produced and Directed this film. It’s almost like he got carried away by the chance to shoot in remarkable locations, with an A-list cast and tell a story that in parts could inspire real horror and empathy. Yet there is no core to All the Money in the World. No one to sympathize with. No stakes to get raised. Furthermore, to the detriment of the narrative, the film continues to refer back to J. Paul Getty’s (played convincingly by Christopher Plummer) immense and constantly growing wealth. This serves to deflate the thin tension that exists in the story in the first place. Meanwhile, as contemptible as they are, you almost feel bad for the goofball peasants who kidnapped grandson Paul III. They just want to eat their pasta, play their music and expand their good quality knock-off Gucci bags empire. (Who doesn’t appreciate a good knock-off Gucci?) This is another slap in face to basic storytelling. Make your bad folks really bad. So the villains, though criminal, ultimately aren’t that villainous and the heroes, if you can call them that, aren’t that heroic. It seems like they are all just having a bad case of the Mondays that goes on for a few months.
You know that sooner or later the Getty’s will get back to those antiquities, paintings and villas. There is no psychological drama, no Stockholm syndrome, no real connection among anyone in the film. I started making up obstacles like, “Will Paul III fall in love with that home made gravy from the one lady cook who all these kidnappers seem to always have around?” Or how about the relationship between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams? This would have been a perfect place to invoke artistic license and build up a strong fictional yet meaningful relationship. But the relationship here remains about as superficial as the flesh would Williams delivers to Wahlberg with the handset of a faded mustard yellow telephone. The telephone in the film becomes a main character, another storytelling faux pas breaking the show don’t tell rule. Yet the actors did do an admirable job in spite of having so little to work with story-wise.
Is the movie based on a true story? Yes. Loosely based. Instead of human relationships though, the film decides to fictionalize a Keystone Cops style chase in ACT III. It’s almost impossible to suspend disbelief in this case. The only thing this film does make me want to do is watch a survey of Patty Hearst movies like the 1979 made for TV classic, “The Ordeal of Patty Hearst.” Or any other kidnap movies for that matter. Taken comes to mind. Maybe Die Hard, since it is Christmas. Or since it’s minus 5 degrees out and more of a heist than kidnap movie, some egg nog and Dog Day Afternoon, you know, just to warm up a little. Like the lives depicted, All the Money in the World certainly left me cold.