A Simple Favor

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The funny thing about A Simple Favor is that it’s funny. The director and editor come from comedic backgrounds and have worked with Judd Apatow. The editor, Brent White, actually cut Talladega Nights, Anchorman and 40-Year-Old Virgin. With A Simple Favor the influences of Hitchcock, Apatow and as D ever so aptly nailed, De Palma are plainly evident.  The film is truly cinematic and could just as easily be enjoyed with the sound off. However, there are clever moments like the too many croutons in the Caesar salad loud crunching sounds at dinner, alluding to following the breadcrumbs of this mystery.

As you faithful reader are aware, the L & D are a known quantity at the Appleton Valley Grand Marcus Theater™ and our confidential informant behind the ticket counter immediately let us know that Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) uses some spicy language in this one. I promised to use my earmuffs. Meanwhile, Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) really is the one who rips a blue streak here. She’s a Porsche drivin’, Gucci wearin’, heat packin’, double martini with a lemon twist drinkin’ at noon badass…who doesn’t give a fuck. Our c.i. missed this entirely. 

On the suspense side, the film reminded me of one of my recent favorites, the under appreciated The Girl on the Train, starring Emily Blunt. On the style and sort of goofball factor side there are plenty of homages to De Palma. For example when someone gets slammed by a car —which you know, would normally knock you out— but instead gets on their knees and then punches a guy in the nuts…that’s very DePalma to me in the given context of a mystery film. And also very Apatow, in any context.

I won’t say more here except to say, A Simple Favor is an enjoyable, sophisticated, humorous, slightly absurd but never off the rails, tightly spun tale that keeps you wondering what will happen next the whole way through. It’s really a wonderful little film that I hope to watch again and again.

The Happytime Murders and Searching

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                                      It’s happy time, Mr. Cho

After a ‘string’ of good to great movies, L&D ventured off to see The Happytime Murders and Searching in this, the last official week of the summer in the greater Wisconsinland area, with the results about as satisfying as cold churros from a Taco Bell $5 box.   It’s not that we didn’t like them; it’s just that they could have been so much more.

Both movies are built around a gimmick.  Happytime features salacious, foul-mouthed, NC17-rated Muppets (though they aren’t really Muppets, 😉), whereas Searching is a seen entirely as an on-line experience, with the entire story unfolding as if the audience is taking different perspectives from a first-person computer interface.   Although both movies have their strengths, neither is a strong movie.

Beginning with Happytime, although this is ostensibly a Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny in the movie.   Instead, we follow around a rumpled Phillip Marlowe of a a Muppet, Phil Phillips (voiced very compellingly by someone named Bill Barretta, who also handles a number of other voices).   The Phillips detective has a oddly empathetic charisma about him, despite the clumsy backstory of his going from decorated cop to down-and-out private dick.   McCarthy was his former partner and they had a falling out, but now they are reunited to investigate a murderous rampage on the Happytime gang that starred in a hit show from yesteryear. Whatever.

L laughed throughout and seemed to enjoy it.    I laughed intermittently and was pretty bored otherwise.

Those of you who saw the trailer know that the movie features some sordid Muppet-on-Muppet back-room action, culminating in an extended silly string money shot.   I counted off an initial 15-second spree, with a 15-second follow up.

If you don’t walk out, stick around for the credits, which feature shots of how the puppets were integrated into the film and how some of the green screens, etc, etc… were set up.   That, coupled with the relief that the movie was finally over, served as a great three or four minutes of cinema.

The movie also features acquaintance of the L&D (or the L, at least), Maya Rudolph.   I kind of liked her here, though she didn’t get a lot in the way of lines.

As for Searching, this is another matter entirely.  This is a much higher-quality piece of work.  The movie features John Cho as a father trying to track down his missing daughter (played by Sarah Sohn) seen entirely through the prism of internet searches and online content.  What secrets does your computer hold about you?

The innovation here has a compelling, if slightly irritating, element to it.   I sit at a computer for a good chunk of the day, so once I figured out how the movie was going to play out, I wondered if they could sustain it for the full running time.   The answer was no for two reasons.  First, there were certain parts, mostly during the back end, where the medium was a mismatch for more effective narration.  As a result, the story suffered and I sat and wondered how they might have done it differently than paying too close attention to the story itself.   Second, and more problematic, is that the story just sort of unravels.   Boomp, boomp, ba doomp, just like that, it goes from a really compelling thriller to a disappointment in the span of a few minutes.

Overall, most of the movie is seen from the father’s perspective, and these worked the best.  There were a couple integrations of other perspectives to pull the movie together, but these weren’t integrated throughout, and I think that was really problematic.   In either case, I suspect there is something to annoy you in this movie enough that you won’t find it to be the favorite thing you see this summer.  All that said, John Cho is really, really good, and, as L says, great acting goes a long way.

We continue to rack up Fandango VIP points, so Happytime definitely over the $2 bar and Searching over the $3 bar.   Happytime can definitely be seen as a Netflix or Redbox on the home screen, and I suspect that is the best place to see Searching as well.

From the Trailers:  We are both gaga for Gaga, with A Star is Born coming in October.  Let us know if you want to attend the Marcus premiere with us.   L has informed me that we will not be seeing The (Nine Unch) Nun.   Guest reviewers welcome for that one.

 

 

 

Mile 22

Iko-Uwais-from-Mile-22.jpgL&D were a blank slate settling into the new Mark Wahlberg vehicle, Mile 22, not realizing that the movie has been (appropriately) panned by many of our critic brethren.  Wahlberg sort of reprises his misanthropic, fast-talking Sergeant Dignam role from The Departed.  Only here he plays the on-the-ground savant leader of a special ops team of last resort, called on when diplomatic and militaristic solutions fail.   And, it’s pretty cool to see the moving technological parts of these ops, reminiscent of Enemy of the State from so many years ago.  This movie is not nearly as good, unfortunately, though I would guess that those responsible thought  it would be a home run worthy of at least one sequel. I guess we’ll see.

The plot centers on Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan and former UFC phenom Ronda Rousey (among others) tasked with transporting Iko Uwais to an airstrip 20-some miles away as a quid pro quo to stave off a large helping of cesium-enhanced terrorism.  If you don’t know about the horrors of cesium, Wahlberg will enlighten you along the way; he’s pretty knowledgeable.  By my estimate, this trek absorbs the last two-thirds of the movie and is effectively an extended action sequence through the streets of somewhere in Columbia or Georgia, I guess (though the plot was ostensibly set in Indonesia).

The movie does possess a couple of strengths.  The technology stuff is mostly well done and cool to look at and sort of overwhelming to keep track of, sort of like surveillance-state technology, I suppose.  As for the players, Wahlberg is a compelling character with his verbal rat-a-tat-tats and band-snapping intensity. Rousey is also pretty good and well cast.  But the action hero here is the asset, Iko Uwais, who is like a supercharged kung fu god, just beating the living hell out of everyone who gets in his way.  Even being handcuffed to a table can’t slow him down.  He is unbelievable.  He steals the show.   He wins the movie.

There are a couple of downers, as well.  The story line with Cohan is ridiculous, irritating filler, though she does have one great sequence where she is on the losing end of some WWF-type action from a much larger foe.   And John Malkovich shows up with a pretty cool new haircut, but otherwise it is pretty disappointing to see his talent wasted like this.

As for the action, there is certainly a lot to choose from.  Unfortunately, it’s often disorienting with those multi-camera blur sequences, and occasionally hyper violent (causing L&D to cringe laugh so loudly at one point that the small smattering of our movie-going brethren turned to see who was laughing at a man falling on his head in such a way that his neck and shoulder are perfectly parallel, ouch). It is violent even by today’s standards, though not too much in the way of gross-out gore. This is a movie not afraid to shoot you in the face.  L points out that this is another one of those first-person shooter movies, a la John Wick or, the gold standard, Hardcore Henry .  For our New Year’s Resolution, we will revisit the latter and provide a review.   What a breath of bloody phlegm that movie was.

But back to Mile 22 — the movie seemed longer than it was, and as it ended I credibly thought it might have another half hour.  My guess is that Wahlberg and the other producers thought going in that it had another hour and a half in the form of a sequel.   I have my doubts.  A better use of Wahlberg’s time might be an exploration of what that Sgt Dingham character is up to all these years later.  Or Ted 3.

So maybe at the $5 bar for this one.   Fortunately, I’ve been racking up these Fandango VIP points that effectively give me $3 for every movie I see, so we were in and out of this one, popcorn included, for just $2.   So let’s just say it soared over the $2 bar with the added bonus that we didn’t have to sit through an extra hour after the popcorn was gone.

The Equalizer 2

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                                                                There are two types of pain in this world…

L&D were a little nervous heading into The Equalizer 2, having missed the first installment of the series.  OK, so that’s a joke we have leaned on before, but it was somewhat apt in this case, as it isn’t clear exactly who the Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) character is fashioned after.   It could be a James Bond / Jason Bourne type.  Or maybe a Charles Bronson / Bruce Willis vigilante justice warrior.  After some deliberation, I’ve settled on Jack Ryan, the brains and the brawn.  The film spends almost as much time with McCall studying and sleuthing as he does with him kicking ass and taking names, going out of its way to make McCall a cerebral character.  They even go so far as to show his ability to solve mysteries from a few thousand miles away through some sort of out-of-body, mental transcendence method.  It’s a neat trick.

But although McCall is sort of an amalgam of modern action heroes, what we get here is a movie about tying up loose ends, with McCall himself — ironically, perhaps — being the biggest loose end of all.   There are by my count four main plot lines that don’t quite converge, and getting to the finish mixes a bit of intrigue with a lot of syrupy absurdity to get to tie it all back together.  The main plot line involves McCall getting dragged out of his anonymous life of a Lyft driver and back in with the old gang within the deep state.  The gang includes the brilliant Melissa Leo and the super smoldery Pedro Pascal, both who are blessed with the ability to make you care even when there’s not much there.  We are also treated to a boilerplate father-figure story line focusing on Ashton Sanders.

Amdist the primary action hero drivers, there are some attempts to introduce some non-trivial meditations on social justice — including Denzel providing Sanders with a copy of Between the World and Me, a father-figure moment if there ever was one — but there are no serious attempts to elaborate or explore, so these angles ultimately turn out to be trivial.  If I’m not mistaken, the gang members who are exhorting the Ashton Sanders character to go on a murdering spree are listed as his “buddies” in the credits.   Did I read that correctly?

But all that said, the production values in this are exceptional and enjoyable.  The opening sequence with McCall driving around Boston as a Lyft driver kicked things off in style, and I would have been happy watching that for an hour.   The first hour or so set at least one plot line nicely, and the movie only began to unravel once the bad guy is revealed, culminating with the kill the bad guys in reverse order — from least relevant to most relevant.   Even so, you had to admire the production values as this went on.

A meh from L&D on this one, though we did enjoy cavorting about it afterwards (though we spent more time talking about the Bruce Willis Death Wish movie that about the Equalizer)The summer blockbusters seem to have hit a soft spot, so if you have a coupon or or out and about on bargain Tuesday, this is a good movie to munch some popcorn to.  But I am guessing this will be upstaged by the Thursday release of the latest Mission: Impossible incarnation.   I guess we will have to see.

Uncle Drew

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The TBI was off the charts for this film, stretching way past the point where you order your chalupa, at least 15 cars deep. That should have been my first clue that Uncle Drew would surpass my admittedly low expectations. I have been burned many times by films that rely on a star athlete to try and carry a feature. As a basketball film with an African-American cast, wouldn’t Uncle Drew rely on the same disappointing jokes and stereotypes that we have all suffered through a thousand times? And yet, it didn’t. The theme of the film is somewhere between family is right in front of you if you can see it / ego can destroy the greatest talent / you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. 

Is Uncle Drew formulaic? Yes. It is about as formulaic as you can get and yet it’s such an enjoyable ride, you don’t really mind. From an aesthetic point of view, it’s beautifully shot. RED digital cameras have truly come into their own. There was a great mix of glamorous photography along with arching action shots. In terms of the make up, I think the film should be nominated for an Academy Award for prosthetics. It was fantastic to see folks you recognize look straight up geriatric. At the same time, it’s sort of believable that someone who is dedicated to something like say playing the drums, riding a bike or playing basketball could excel at it after not playing for decades. More than muscle memory, the film makes a case for love of the game. 

The acting in the film also raised it above what I expected going in and made it greater than the sum of its parts.  You could see the actors were in tune with their characters. Even in the bloopers, where thankfully the only mom joke in the entire film can be found, the main character, Dax, strongly played by Lil Rel Howery, says he wouldn’t know, he is an orphan. It goes to show how deep the actors prepared and how the characters had many dimensions and motivations to guide their performances.  

As a basketball playing fanatic for many years I appreciated the film on another level as well. Sure, looking back on schoolyard hoops there are the great moments, the bad moments and the moments you tell your therapist about but the point is, as Uncle Drew points out, you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing. I’m glad these geezers got together to once again throw down the rock.

A Quiet Place

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L&D braved the first major lightning storm of the year to sit through the ultra-creepy A Quiet Place.   The film is set in some post-apocalyptic world, with John Krasinski and family doing their farming and fishing and, um, reproducing in relative isolation and near-absolute quiet, steering clear of whatever is on the prowl outside.  I will admit to curling up in a ball a few times and jumping out of my seat once or twice, perhaps three times.   Maybe four.   The Marcus deluxe recliners were virtually perfect for squirming purposes.

The best part of this movie is its pacing and its ability to create suspense and tension.  This is the rare film that you say you should see in the theater because of the lack of sound — the silence was seriously unsettling and destabilizing.   I also liked that it took care of business and then some in under 90 minutes.  Well done.   (It also features the best illustration of the dangers of a grain silo since Witness).

The worst part is that the setting and resolution are so wildly implausible that L wouldn’t keep quiet about it on the way home.   But, even so, he agreed it was pretty scary — I’m pretty sure he closed his eyes and missed the climax!   We both agreed that that this movie was as advertised, and we even reminisced about the high-quality suspense and mystery created in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie we both liked, but I don’t think we reviewed.

So, if you like being scared without too much in the way of blood and gore, you should check this one out.

Blockers

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This film is hilarious. I would put it up there with some of my favorite comedies like last years’ underrated Office Christmas Party and the Will Ferrell classic Old School. Though it has more in common with American Pie. With Blockers I felt like I was watching an instant classic.  The film has a great innocence to it mixed in with plenty of full frontal dudity. Not the nudity we were expecting but comedicly perfect.

We don’t get paid (yet) for writing the L & D but let’s say we are a known quantity at the movie theater. From the moment we entered until we took our seats, we were asked several times what we were watching tonight. And I will speak for myself when I say that I blushed. It’s just the word cock. There, I said it, cock, cock, cock.  Even when you just have to say Blockers, cock is implied. Even sometimes, you know, I live on Hancock Street and sometimes I feel funny when I have to spell it out for someone. I mean, self-conscious.  “Sir, did you say Hancock?” “Yes, H. A. N. C. O. C. K.”

So what happened is that neither one of us would say what we were going to go see and just sort of walked away. But they knew. They knew. And would yell to us, “It’s supposed to be really good!” And really good it was. I laughed out loud and knee slapped like there was no tomorrow. It seemed to capture this zeitgeist and generational gap flawlessly and easily, while taking side steps to ask a few profound universal questions —in between bouts of anal abuse and projectile vomiting.

I want to congratulate the filmmakers and actors on a smart, inclusive, funny, irreverent and enjoyable work. I look forward to watching it again sometime. And that is rare. 

Hostiles

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This is a split decision on the L and D report. Not putting words in my colleagues’ mouth but I got the impression he had seen all this before…and better. I myself enjoy the Western genre as much as the next person but have never really gotten that into it. To me it’s so cliché as a filmmaker to answer the question, “What would you like to do next?” with “A Western.”  It’s like you must say this or the Directors Guild of America will swoop in on horseback, six-guns a-blazin’ and take away your filmmakers card. In my life I’ve definitely mostly watched and made what I liked: foreign film, indie film, art films, documentaries.  In fact, only recently did I catch Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is an amazing movie.  Another Western I really enjoyed was Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis. My point is that not everyone has seen everything from every genre. So here we are at Hostiles. After The Revenant, it’s tough to go back to standard fight scenes in Westerns. But Hostiles has no problem with that. The filmmakers might even celebrate it as an homage to the old style of filming action.  Also, it seemed that there was a lot of crying in this film for Christian Bale. He cried more than most of the women in an any Almodóvar film combined. Nothing wrong with your protagonist crying. But that is certainly not part of the old school Western genre. It really pushes the audience when every difficult situation calls for a close up of Christian Bale with lots of deep breathing like Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods and then a few big crocodile tears. I will say this though, like Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, Christian Bale is one person on set I would not like to sit next to at lunch. He is so intense onscreen that I can’t imagine him in real life, just cracking a goofy joke or talking about the weather — that would terrify me. In this film, like every Tom Hanks movie, Christian Bale’s character starts out great, does great things and ends well, you guessed it, great.  His evolution from a person who hates the Other to a person who can forgive stretches your disbelief. In other words, nothing happens on this journey to cause this change in him that would not have already occurred in his many years as a soldier. He would have seen Indian nation fight against Indian nation, he would have seen treasonous and criminal soldiers acting badly towards everyone and anyone and he would have experienced random acts of kindness on every side as well.

I did have an issue in that a lot of the heroic acts of the protagonist are told and not shown. That gets to be trying. I also thought it was weird that Chief Yellow Hawk (played admirably by Wes Studi), who they were transporting back to his original sacred land, didn’t have a tribe there anymore to greet him. This was the seeming set-up when the return of the Chief was a front page newspaper headline in Act I. So visually and story wise, these were let downs. What I really enjoyed about the film was the pace. It was unafraid to linger on moments. The performance by Rosamund Pike was powerful and memorable. I also liked that the film dealt with a lot of existential issues. Westerns are great for dealing with philosophical questions wrapped up in the simple justice of the wild and a six shooter. I thought that the script employed flowing and authentic language, including Native dialect which was enjoyable. If I wasn’t necessarily wowed by the story, I thought the dialogue itself was strong and believable. I would like to give a nod to Director of Photography Masanobu Takayanagi, whose widescreen landscapes and night exterior photography were beautiful and something to write home about. If you are into ontological pondering, excellent performances, enjoy historical stories and groove on truly epic Western vistas I would recommend this film. On the other hand, if you know this genre back and forth and are looking for an original Western story shot in a groundbreaking way you won’t miss not seeing Hostiles.

Phantom Thread

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“I smell the blood of an English mum”

 

We were about 45 minutes into this latest Paul Thomas Anderson piece when I realized I was completely transfixed by a movie about an uptight dressmaker who lived with his very measured sister and was making a lot of dresses for a young waitress.  Not exactly Thor for a plot line or for action.  I also realized I was pretty excited because I had no idea where this was headed.

The movie is set in 1950s London, and focuses a lot on gender roles and who gets what in a relationship.  The central tension is between the dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), and his love interest / model / protege / partner, Alma (Vicki Krieps).  The other major player is is Woodcock’s sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), who is subtly managing the board to keep her brother on the straight and narrow.  In the deeper background is Woodcock’s mother, Woodcock is a mama’s boy, and the questions of matrimony and maternity are paramount throughout, even if the movie doesn’t ever come right out and say it.

So what do you need to know here?  First off, the movie is ostensibly about an insufferable male tyrant type, the type of guy who simply cannot start the day with a confrontation because he has no time for confrontations — if he has a bad breakfast, he may never recover.  The one who commends his own “gallantry” for eating asparagus that is not prepared the way he likes it.  Were you sent here to ruin his evening?

Second off, the movie is actually about the women around him. One set is predominantly populated with the Woodcock label’s army of skilled seamstresses, who spend their days watching Woodcock eye up his dresses, and then work their magic with the needles and thread.  This group is skilled but lacks agency.  Cyril lets them know when to come and she lets them know when they can go.

There is another group of women with various levels of authority based on either their wealth or their social status — indeed, the Woodcock empire is built on draping wealthy women with unimaginably beautiful clothing.  These women purchase Woodcock’s attention.

The third group is Woodcock’s love interests, including Alma, and there is some dissection of how a woman can move into a different social strata based either on her position or her money or on Woodcock’s interest.  There is some fluidity here between groups, and in the clumsiest exposition in the film, a competitor for Woodcock’s attentions dutifully (and annoyingly) attempts to undermine Alma’s claim on Woodcock’s affections.

And, finally, we have his sister, Cyril, who represents the meritocratic & perhaps nepotistic element.  It is Cyril who enables, encourages, Reynolds’ single-mindedness and surliness, and one suspects that without her machinations, Reynolds may well have gone the route of Bartleby the Scrivener. Cyril evaluates her brother’s potential companions like the second in command looking out for the alpha dog.  Indeed, when Cyril first encounters Alma, there is a prolonged scene where she sniffs her, up close like, and susses out why Alma smells the way she does, and then the Woodcock siblings literally take to sizing her up.  It is ridiculous and unsettling and evidently as normal as can be in the land of Woodcock.  I’m pretty sure I could make the case that she is playing the role of a protective mother, though I think there is something else going on here.  At any rate, Lesley Manville is both beautiful and marvelous in this role.

The bottom line is that you can take the movie at face value and you will find it beautiful and possibly that it has a lot to say about cut-throat competition in human interactions.  The dresses are certainly astonishing.  I’m no fashionista — I leave that to my colleague —  yet I enjoyed the sartorial splendor for the women and for the men. Krieps, Manville, and Day-Lewis are all phenomenal.  It is straight up quite the show.

But I would urge you to have an open mind about this being a comedy, because the movie is seriously hilarious.  After all, the main character’s name is Reynolds Woodcock, a name with tremendous comedic potential. If you don’t agree, I mean, what is wrong with you? Reynolds Woodcock?!?  That’s not an accident.  Consider this:  this is the same filmmaker that brought us Tom Cruise saying unspeakably filthy things, gave us Boogie Nights and all that entailed, and built an entire movie around Adam Sandler arbitraging coupons off of pudding cups.  We also have the sniffing scene, Daniel Day-Lewis ordering breakfast like he was expecting a table full of lumberjacks, Daniel Day-Lewis wearing purple pajamas and a tweed sport coat, and a running joke about how annoying  toast butterers can be. And then there is the wedding dress for the princess.  If you are watching this as a comedy, you are laughing at this dress.  Indeed, L&D laffed out loud throughout, and there was audible cackling from all corners the theater. Overall, I can pretty much guarantee that there are more laugh out loud moments in this than you will find in the film actually called Mr. Woodcock.

I encourage you to check it out because it is beautiful, awesome, hilarious, and may well be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role.  As a P.T. Anderson junkie, this is way over the $5 bar for me.  L wasn’t completely sold on it, but I don’t think he had buyer’s remorse over his $5.  I can see his point and will admit that I was a bit disappointed in the final half hour and don’t think it was tied together as a masterpiece (like, say, There Will Be Blood), but it was certainly thought provoking — we had a good discussion about the differences between Wes Andersen and P. T. Anderson, the parallels to Mother! and The Beguiled (and here) and a bunch of other stuff.  I bet L would even put this over the $6 Thursday bar.

All the Money in the World

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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.