Thursday, December 21, 2017


Christopher Plummer     Michelle Williams     Mark Wahlberg     Charlie Plummer     Timothy Hutton


    The film begins on the streets of Rome in the evening, and Paul (Charlie Plummer) is outside strolling among the women who are inviting, but when they see his age, they tell him to go home.  Even though he is a sixteen, he looks even younger, with bright blue eyes and an innocent expression.  Still, “I can take care of myself”, he replies with quiet confidence.  And as immediate disproof of that claim, he is grabbed and whisked into a blue Volkswagen van, which speeds off.  The statement becomes even more ironically prescient when it becomes clear that he has been kidnapped and held for ransom—17 million dollars.
  Thus begins a stellar struggle between his mother Gail Getty (Williams) and his grandfather, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), the richest man in the world, who stubbornly refuses to pay the ransom, despite his wealth, retorting that with his 14 grandchildren if he paid for one’s ransom, he would have to pay for 13 more of them.  He is a notorious modern-day Scrooge, who periodically delivers mantras about money (e.g., “There is very little in life worth paying full price for”) and is known for his merciless haggling over even low sums.  He is eccentric in his tastes, as well as in his complete preoccupation with himself.
     But one of the most entertaining aspects of this film is seeing Gail, his daughter-in-law, resembling him more than does his own son, her husband.  She is a fair match in making deals with him that ultimately win, despite his vast resources and personal cunning.  It’s a delight to see her negotiate with him during her divorce, but even more, later, during the kidnapping-ransom process.
     All the Money in the World recounts the well-publicized event when J. Paul Getty’s grandson was kidnapped in 1973.  Getty’s recalcitrance in paying the ransom was covered by the news media, and tidbits about his chintziness, such as having pay telephones in his mansion for guests, was in the newspapers.  (This is noted in the film in a light-hearted moment for the viewers, but exasperating in reality to Gail.)  Ridley Scott and the writer David Scarpa (based on a book by John Pearson) have made it an exciting romp with lots of tension and suspense, as well as demonstrating for us the realities of a kidnapping situation [perhaps prompting discussions about the current U.S. policy of refusing to negotiate with political kidnappers].  It diverges from the real story to some extent in the interest of dramatization and thrill, and it cuts back and forth between the past and the present and different parts of the globe, creating some disorientation for the viewer.
     Michelle Williams is a wonder as a character who is sharp and ever creative in managing an eccentric billionaire’s sometimes bizarre machinations and paradoxes.  One example is his distaste for children except as possessions and as an extension of himself, and fighting with Gail for custody of his grandchildren.  Inserted into the film as a last-minute replacement for Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer demonstrates his acumen by showing full embodiment of the Getty character. 

This is a thriller, highlighting a wealthy man’s eccentricities.

Grade:  B+                                    By Donna R. Copeland

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