‘All the Money in the World’ Review: There’s Way More Drama Behind the Scenes Than Onscreen
The sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey should have spelled disaster for All the Money in the World. Spacey played the third lead in the film, cold-hearted billionaire J. Paul Getty, when his career was effectively killed by Buzzfeed’s article about actor Anthony Rapp and the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of Spacey when he was 14 years old. That piece was published on October 29, less than two months before All the Money in the World was due in theaters. At that point, there was no way the film could be released. It was over.
But here it is. And when all is said and done, the allegations against Spacey may wind up being the best thing that ever happened to All the Money in the World. Spacey’s replacement, Christopher Plummer, is the most interesting part of the finished film, and the way in which it was shot and cut just weeks before All the Money in the World’s scheduled release date gives the film a curiosity factor and marketing hook that wasn’t there otherwise. In fact, it’s a much more compelling story— the fall of one of the biggest movie and television stars of his generation and the mad dash to replace him in one of his last projects — than the film it’s selling.
That film is inspired by incredible true events, though with enough obvious deviations from the historical record to earn a title card just before the closing credits that note that some things have been fictionalized. Plummer’s Getty is the richest man in the history of the world, an oil magnate who cares more about his invaluable collection of art and artifacts than his children and grandchildren. He doesn’t even like when his family calls his beloved objects “priceless,” because of course they have a price. Everything does; even people, as Getty learns when his grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped by the Italian Mafia.
The crooks demand $17 million from Getty; chump change for a billionaire like him. But the notoriously cheap Getty, who even has a pay phone in his house, refuses to pay. For one thing, if he gave these men $17 million, all of his grandchildren would be in danger of copycats. For another, Getty didn’t get rich giving away his millions. And so Paul remains in captivity for weeks and months, as his mother Gail (Michelle Williams) tries to scrounge up the necessary funds with the help of a former CIA operative named Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg).
It’s a sensational crime, filled with unscrupulous mobsters, former spies, shady oil barons, and severed body parts. So it’s worth asking: Why has no one ever turned this into a movie before? All the Money in the World suggests an answer: Not all great stories are inherently cinematic ones. The Getty kidnapping is shocking and sad, and it offers a unique window into the minds of the wealthy. (The timing of a movie about a man who has more money than he could spend in 20 lifetimes worrying about whether or not he can deduct his grandson’s ransom on his taxes is almost too perfect.) But as a film, it mostly entails Michelle Williams sitting around waiting for telephone calls from one of the kidnappers (Romain Duris’ Cinquanta) while Mark Wahlberg nods sternly in the background. Months of inaction pass between significant developments, and it feels like roughly that much time is passing in the theater waiting for each of them.
The relatively negligible plot twists could leave more room to explore the characters, but only Plummer’s Getty emerges as a fully realized person. Williams, working with a curious accent, frets and worries effectively, and she makes the most of her brief screentime with Plummer (Getty and Gail have a testy relationship). But director Ridley Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa never really get beneath the surface to find what makes Gail tick. Wahlberg is a good actor, but only within a certain range. There is one particular type that he plays badly, and it’s the part he’s called upon to play here: A person of fast-talking intellect. His deeply uncomfortable line readings recalls his speeches about the wind in The Happening.
Gallery - Our Favorite Foreign Titles of American Movies: