“No one is above money.”
At a bit of a bloated 2 hours and 12 minutes long, All the Money in the World is reminiscent of a grueling restaurant wait with an underwhelming payoff. You push through the time because you’ve heard/read good things, and after spending half of your evening in the crowded lounge area, you’re seated and rushed through an upscale, overpriced, disjointed meal seriously lacking in direction. This was my experience with Ridley Scott’s All The Money in the World, a movie made by a respected giant of cinema that just so happens to also be a boring, oddly off-hands effort from the director. It’s normally pretty easy to see the Scott stamp all over his work whereas this film seems to have been crafted by a ghost-writer.
Set in the 70’s, occasionally in the 60’s, jetting back and forth between Rome and England and a few other undisclosed locations, All the Money in the World’s wandering timeline does no favors to a film already lacking in direction. J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), a teenage boy, is kidnapped just after coercing prostitutes and assuring them that, “he can take care of himself.” The scene is so on the nose that this continually outward looking story can’t even see it protruding beneath its open-eyed gaze. And in a confounding turn of events, the picture tries to materialize a relationship between Paul and one of his kidnappers (Romain Duris). More than any other part of the film, this piece makes me want to read John Pearson’s book, if only to see whether or not this buddy-buddy “friendship” is real of contrived. This script tends to lean towards and heavily rely on the latter, almost to the point of a bizarrely binding and multi-lingual bromance saturated in a creepy Sherlock syndrome.
Meanwhile, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) faces a ransom of $17 Million for her son’s head. She says she doesn’t have the money because she doesn’t, but the kidnappers aren’t entirely stupid, telling her to ask former father-in-law J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), the richest man on record, to sign the check’s dotted line. After all, it should be chump change for the oil tycoon. Getty refuses their demands. If he bends now, only time will tell until he breaks beneath further demands. It’s unsurprising for a billionaire who lies, cheats, plays the system, and is so damn cheap that he even refuses to pay for hotel laundry service. Getty is far and away the most intriguing and massive personality in this story (echoed through shots of his many things, all bigger and higher than the screen can hold), and even though Christopher Plummer’s save-the-day performance standing in for Kevin Spacey feels as unpolished as you’d expect, I can still imagine a more engaging film where this conniving old hoarder of wealth was the face of the film instead of a castaway plot point. Pearson’s book was previously called Painfully Rich, a title that hones in on Getty’s tortured relationship with his own avarice more succinctly and intimately than All The Money in the World vagary ever comes close to achieving.
All the Money in the World has a perplexing opening third, a middle so standoffish that I nearly took a nap, and an escalated end that bears the stakes of a classic thriller without the suspense to really convince us the threats are real or imminent. None of the performances feel like they belong to the same film or as if they’ve been given proper direction by Sir Ridley, especially Mark Wahlberg, so stodgy and miscast in an uptight role that we begin to forget that the man can be a very good actor. It’s been noted that Scott prides himself on being a quick filmmaker, that being an Octogenarian doesn’t keep him from pumping out big epics on a yearly basis. I’ve loved a handful of his movies, admired even more, and loathed quite a few as well. And at this point, it seems as if the title of this movie reflects the goal of his pursuits; recoup the budget and bank as much box office as possible. I wonder what would happen if instead of money, he took all the time in the world and aimed for perfection instead of a rapid, scribbled, on-the-go level of completion.
“Everything has a price.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
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