365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

10Jan/180

All the Money in the World (2017)

You know it's a great year for actresses in a leading role when Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, Manchester by the Sea), arguably the greatest actress of her generation gives one of the greatest performances of her career and won't even get a sniff when it comes to an Oscar nomination. But that is what we have in 2017. We have a year that, as a whole, hasn't produced a lot of great movies nor has it given us many great performances for actors in a leading role, but has given us so many amazing lead actress performances that the likes of traditional heavyweights Williams, Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game), Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes), Jennifer Lawrence (mother!). Williams gives one of the top five performances of her career in Ridley Scott's (Gladiator, The Martian) All the Money in the World. But it likely will be forgotten for two reasons. The first is that it is not one of the five best performances of the year and thus won't be recognized during awards season. The other is that a good portion of this movie was reshot following the claims of sexual assault against Kevin Spacey, one of the key figures in the movie. The movie might be more known for what went on behind the scenes than for its final product. Scott replaced Spacey with Christopher Plummer (Beginners, The Last Station), brought in all the key players to reshoot the scenes involving this character (often 18 hour days), spent an additional $10 million to do so, and only delayed the release of this movie by three days. It was the right thing to do. I applaud Scott and all of the people who sacrificed time and money to do what was the right decision. If you've heard about this, I'll mention that I did too. But I felt it was downplayed some because Plummer was only in a few scenes. That is not the case at all. In my opinion, Plummer made this film. He stole every scene he was in and it's impossible to picture anybody doing a better job. This decision could earn All the Money in the World its only two Oscar nominations (Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing). All in all, it's a very good movie with top-notch performances. But it isn't quite as memorable nor does it hold the weight of the movies that will be recognized this Oscar season.

It's actually hard to imagine anyone playing the role of billionaire oil magnate Jean Paul Getty, the richest man in the world in 1973, the year when this movie was set in. Based on the International true story of Getty's oldest grandson John Paul III (Charlie Plummer - The Dinner, Lean on Pete) who gets kidnapped in the middle of the night and held for a $17 million ransom that the eldest Getty refuses to pay, despite the price tag for his safe return being no more than chump change to him. A penny-pincher his whole life, Getty irons his own shirts rather than pay the few dollars to get them drycleaned. Most of the movie is shot in present-day Europe (between England and Italy mostly). But we also are taken back about 10 years where we get some of the origin stories. Specifically, we learn that the senior Getty's son John Paul II (Andrew Buchan - Still Life, Nowhere Boy), his wife Abigail (Williams), and their children are struggling to make ends meet. Abigail encourages her husband to reestablish contact with their father. The eldest Getty urges his son to come to Rome under the premise that he will offer him a job in his company. When the family moves to Rome, it is eluded that this is the first time that Abigail and her kids meet Jean Paul. The initial exchange is awkward at best, but the rich man does offer his son a job...one that he squanders.

John Paul II doesn't have the same drive or discipline as his miserable, miserly father. Fast-forward a few years and John Paul II is living in San Francisco and is addicted to alcohol, drugs, and women. Abigail is back in Europe to deal with the divorce from her husband. John Paul II is so hooked on drugs, unable to care for himself, and disinterested that the divorce negotiations are instead held between Abigail, with her lawyer, and John Paul III's massive legal team. The eldest Getty isn't willing to give over his money in the settlement since it's his son's divorce and not his own. Eventually, an irate Abigail decides to forgo any financial help and instead request sole custody of her oldest son.

Back to the present and Abigail is beside herself over her son's abduction. She is incredulous when she hears her father-in-law say there isn't a price he'd pay in the world to get his son back. In a live television interview, he says if he paid the ransom for his one grandchild, he'd have 14 kidnapped grandchildren instead of just the one. And because Abigail did not take any money in the divorce settlement, her hands are tied in the situation. Enter Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg - The Fighter, Deepwater Horizon), a former CIA agent and Getty's top advisor. Instead of paying the ransom, Getty puts Fletcher on the case. Abigail is frustrated because it seems like every direction she takes comes to a dead end and does what only a helpless mother can do. She frets.

John Paul III isn't being treated poorly by his captors. We learn early on that the captors are novices. They expect the whole ordeal to take just a few days. But as the kidnapping lengthens, it's clear that jailers are clearly in over their heads. Cinquanta (Romain Duris - Le Divorce, Paris) one of the lead detainers, shows a bit of humanity and befriends the young John. He is just as disbelieved that the ransom won't be paid by the grandfather. As the ransom price drop, it appears that the senior Getty has no desire to pay any money, no matter how low it goes. Meanwhile, he's spending his days figuring out which piece of priceless artwork to buy next as he's grandson suffers and the boy's mother wonders if she'll ever see her son again.

The key to this movie isn't its plot. Even though it is based on a true story, it follows a fairly formulaic story line. The only real difference here is that the person who is being asked to pay the ransom clearly has the money to do so, but doesn't believe in the principle...even when it involves a grandchild. So in some regard, if you didn't know the true story, then you might wonder if this will, indeed, play out as you think it might. There are some scenes that are stretched for the purpose of theatrics for sure and, honestly, the whole story wasn't all that great. But it's worth it for seeing the performances of Williams and, especially Plummer, alone. Wahlberg (who I generally do like) is miscast here. His role should have been a much lesser known actor in my opinion. I didn't buy him as a negotiator...especially a negotiator with very little power. He plays the good guy here, which he's been apt to do recently, and I think that he got more screen time than a less accomplished actor would of. And it detracts from the movie slightly. Also, he is way outmatched when he shares the screen with the more accomplished Williams and Plummer. Again, I'm generally a fan of Wahlberg and he's done some amazing movies in the last 6 or 7 years. I just felt like he wasn't needed for this one. Likewise with Ridley Scott as the director. This isn't the type of movie I typically expect him to direct and while I love that he re-shot all of Spacey's scenes, this movie didn't wow me like Gladiator, Alien, The Martian, etc. It definitely did not feel like a Ridley Scott movie and I'm surprised he got nominated for a Golden Globe. He won't be so fortunate when the Oscar nominees are announced. Plummer might be though. And this film, also could get a nod for editing.

With all of the other Oscar contenders out there right now, I'd probably wait to watch this one until it comes on Netflix. It's a good suspense movie with great acting, but it's definitely not an Oscar-season movie.

Plot 8/10 (true stories usually get the benefit of the doubt...but should all true stories be told)
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 8/10
Acting 8.5/10
Screenplay 8/10
Directing 10/10 (I mean to do what Scott did, as referenced in the first paragraph of this review, was admirable and appreciated)
Cinematography 8.5/10
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 8/10
Universal Relevance 8/10
83%

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