Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2017 1:42 pm 
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MICHELLE WILLIAMS IN ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

A world of chaos and greed

This is the story, in outline true, of a kidnapping that occurred in Rome in the summer of 1973. It's also a story of chaos and greed, and a messy, sprawling, meandering, and not strictly historical movie. It fortunately escaped being marred by major last minute changes, and it contains one very fine performance by a typically excellent Michelle Williams as the mother of the kidnapping victim. It still tells a fascinating story, with one jaw-dropping development after another.

The Seventies were the time of the Red Brigades (Le Brigate Rosse), the radical organization whose members sought to sow mayhem in Italy with robberies, kidnappings, and violent incidents, though their big one, of the Christian Democratic leader Aldo Moro, which ended the Brigades' popular support, came in 1978. (This very different event is the subject of Marco Bellocchio's 2003 Buongiorno, notte.) It happened that the eldest grandson of J. Paul Getty, the oil billionaire, J. Paul III, lived in Rome, and he was 16 when a band of kidnappers seized him in the Piazza Farnese and took him to Calabria, in the south.

This may seem a particularly good time for Americans to think about the insensitivity of the rich, and Getty senior was notoriously stingy. He had no intention of giving giving the kidnappers the $17 million ransom they demanded. His argument, not illogical, was that if he paid, all 14 of his grandchildren would be kidnapped. But this was a man who installed a pay phone in his baronial mansion for guests. It as also true that young Paul, wo was a wild kid, had joked before about staging his own kidnapping to challenge his frugal grandfather.

This is a harder story to tell than Bellocchio's film, which can focus largely on the short period when the radicals held Moro prisoner in an apartment. Here we must go back and forth between the boy (Charlie Plummer), and his kidnappers; Getty Senior; his increasingly dissolute son (Andrew Buchan), carrousing in Morocco with Mick Jagger; his energetic daughter-in-law Abigail or Gail Harris (Williams); and Getty's fixer and security man, ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg). Chace and Gail Harris wind up working together. Chace has shrewness; but Gail his initiative and caring. We see her emerging more and more, and Williams makes her an interesting character, and someone unlike any other person she's played before.

The kidnappers move slowly, but they are dangerous. It's not till five months later, in mid-December, that they got partial ransom payment and the boy was released. At that point they had cut off one of the boy's ears, and sent it to an Italian newspaper. They are obviously brutal and ruthless and willing to cut the boy to pieces. Gail Harris has the paper send a thousand copies to Getty Senior, and this moves him finally to agree to pay a sum he chiseled down to $2.9 million in ransom. And he only pays $2.2 million, loaning the rest up to $2.9 million to his son, to be repaid at 4% interest. When Gail Harris calls Getty Senior to thank him, he refuses to come to the phone. (This really happened.)

After he was disgraced, all the scenes involving Kevin Spacey in the role of Getty Senior were redone by Christopher Plummer. No harm was done to the film in the process; most of Getty's scenes are freestanding. In fact the 88-year-old Plummer is more age-appropriate to play the 81-year-old Getty than the 58-year-old Spacey, though it may be Getty's malicious lines were penned with Spacey's ripe delivery in mind.

As the chief kidnapper, known as Cinquanta (Fifty), who remained with the boy even after he was "sold" by the motley "political" kidnappers to the Calabrian mafia, we have Romain Duris. He is a good actor, but why have a French actor play a southern Italian? It doesn't seem very authentic. There is something not quite right about Mark Wahlberg as Chace. He is dressed up and slicked up from his usual homeboy roles, and he plays his slickness well; but he lacks a certain nuance. Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) who's in the upcoming, and well spoken of, Andrew Haigh film Lean on Pete), never gets a chance to develop as a personality here. None of these misfortunates keep Christopher Plummer's performance from being salty and convincing and Michelle Williams' from being fresh and eye-opening. Fortunately in the cutting and splicing they remained.

All the Money in the World, 132 mins., debuted in the US on 25 Dec. 2017. Metacritic rating 72%. Released in France as Tout l'argent du monde: AlloCiné press rating 3.0.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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