For­tune favours the brave

Di­rec­tor Ri­d­ley Scott and cast make their own luck after set­back hits drama

The Herald Magazine - - ETC -

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (15) **** ALI­SON ROWAT Dir: Ri­d­ley Scott With: Christo­pher Plum­mer, Michelle Wil­liams, Mark Wahlberg Run­time: 133 min­utes

AS the events in Ri­d­ley Scott’s drama show, all the money in the world could not buy the Getty fam­ily good for­tune. The same ill luck looked like it had trans­ferred to the film it­self when its lead, Kevin Spacey, play­ing J Paul Getty, was ac­cused of sexual ha­rass­ment and air­brushed out of the pic­ture.

What could have been a disaster turns out to be a boon in that Spacey’s re­place­ment, Christo­pher Plum­mer, is so out­stand­ing one won­ders why he was not cho­sen for the role in the first place. While it is too much to say he saves the pic­ture – the true story of the Getty grand­son’s kid­nap­ping is strong enough to stand on its own – he brings a con­vinc­ing sense of sorrow to pro­ceed­ings where Spacey would have de­ployed swag­ger.

Scott opens the pic­ture with a strut of his own, a long, black-and-white track­ing shot show­ing 16-year-old Paul Getty (Char­lie Plum­mer, no re­la­tion) walk­ing through Rome in 1973. His long hair flow­ing, a Jag­geresque white jacket on his skinny rock star frame, the kid is liv­ing la dolce vita. Un­til a van skids to a halt and he is bun­dled into it. The grisly saga has be­gun.

Paul’s mother Gail (Michelle Wil­liams) gets a call from the kid­nap­pers. At first she thinks it is a joke. Real­is­ing that this time it is for real, Gail phones the head of the fam­ily, only to be told he is un­avail­able. The mar­kets have opened and the world’s rich­est man is try­ing to make a buck.

When he does make a state­ment it is to say that he will not be pay­ing a cent of the $17 mil­lion ran­som on the grounds that it will only en­cour­age more kid­nap­pings. Though there is logic to his stance, he comes across as cold, un­feel­ing, al­most in­hu­man.

The screen­play wisely digs deeper by tak­ing a look at the ear­lier re­la­tion­ship be­tween grand­son and grand­fa­ther. The child had been part of a “nor­mal” fam­ily, un­til dad, tired of strug­gling, asked Getty Snr for a job. Their first meet­ing with the old man should have rung alarm bells. Though liv­ing in a lux­ury ho­tel suite, the place is strewn with wet socks and vests be­cause Getty Snr won’t pay to have his laun­dry done.

Scott goes back and forth be­tween the kid­nap­ping, the past and Gail’s strug­gle to get her fa­ther-in-law to help. Time and

again the point is driven home that Getty Snr is a deal maker first and a grandpa sec­ond. But he does care for the boy, as we see when he sends his fixer, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to Rome to help Gail ne­go­ti­ate. There is al­ways a price to be paid for Getty Snr’s help, how­ever.

The kid­nap­ping was a com­plex af­fair and Scott some­times al­lows his film to be­come bogged down. Some of the di­a­logue, par­tic­u­larly be­tween Wil­liams and her con­tact among the kid­nap­pers (French­man Ro­main Duris play­ing an Ital­ian) sounds a touch too pol­ished for what must have been fraught times. On the plus side, Scott’s at­ten­tion to de­tail leaves the viewer with a pow­er­ful sense of the Italy of the times as a poi­sonous, cor­rupt, chaotic place. It also con­firms that hav­ing too much money does strange things to peo­ple.

When it comes to the scene those fa­mil­iar with the case have been dreading, Scott does not flinch from show­ing the hor­ror. Oth­er­wise, he uses his skill as a film­maker to find beauty among the ug­li­ness, as when his cam­era takes in a cho­rus lines of stylish women en­gaged in the grubby busi­ness of count­ing ran­som.

Wahlberg does not stray an inch from his com­fort zone as the fast-talk­ing, cyn­i­cal Chase. Wil­liams, of­ten seem­ing to be the only sane char­ac­ter in the room, is a com­mand­ing pres­ence be­cause of her low-key per­for­mance.

All ku­dos to Plum­mer, though, who takes a char­ac­ter that might have been crash­ingly one-di­men­sional and makes him some­thing more fas­ci­nat­ing, even if we never quite pin down why he turned out as he did.

As for the re­place­ment of Spacey by Plum­mer, the cap­i­tal­ist in Getty would have been amused by the mix of good busi­ness sense and naked ruth­less­ness. With­out Scott’s de­ci­sive action, the pic­ture would not be up for three Golden Globes to­mor­row (best sup­port­ing ac­tor, Plum­mer; best ac­tress, Wil­liams; and best di­rec­tor, Scott). All the money in the world might count for noth­ing at times, but guile and tal­ent will al­ways hold their value.

The viewer is left with a pow­er­ful sense of the Italy of the times as a poi­sonous, cor­rupt, chaotic place

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.