ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD REVIEW

All in the money in the world can’t hide how mediocre this crime biopic really was.

The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

A glorious opening sequence (encapsulated by Dariusz Wolski’s beautiful cinematography) summed up the movie in a nutshell as Charlie Plummer’s (Not a relation) John Paul Getty III drunkenly stumbled along the busy and lively streets of Rome like something out of Roman Holiday.

Style over substance. Like most of Ridley Scott’s movies of late.

Don’t get me wrong, it was watchable. BUT with the cast involved and the subject matter at hand, I expected more.

It’s hard not to talk about Spacey’s absence. I was a big fan of the actor and I felt the scandal has been used as a PR piece to flog a flailing film. I couldn’t help but imagine how he would have handled the role. Injecting that House of Cards menace.

BUT at that same stroke (and for all the hype), John Paul Getty wasn’t really in this film as much as you’d think or hope. So God knows how Spacey was being nominated for an Oscar before the scandal.

I don’t want to take anything away from Christopher Plummer. He was a charismatic and engaging presence that delivered a worthy performance. Even more so if he did the re-shoots in just NINE days.

He really excelled (as did Michelle Williams) in a compelling scene involving the handling of Gail’s divorce. Absurd, brutal and jaw dropping as Getty dictated the terms. Using the children as nothing more than collateral in a business transaction.

Williams’ expressions and stern demeanour during that entire sequence was worth an awards nod alone. I just wish there was more of that fire and friction BUT Williams and Plummer spent too much of the movie apart. Shame.

The slow burning tempo kept my interest (at first) as it flicked back and forth from the kidnapping to Getty’s past as he worked his way up.

The lessons in money and value weren’t surprising. Despite the small sequences that Getty featured in, it still spoke volumes. “You’re not a person anymore. You’re a symbol”. The fact his name alone made an 11 dollar statue turn into an 11 MILLION dollar one said it all.

“A man who has children gives hostages to fortune”. 14 grandchildren encourages 14 kidnappings. Shrewd and grotesque. You couldn’t help BUT laugh at the tycoon.

There was a sickening irony to Getty’s ruthless rationalizing as a number of countries claimed they had Getty’s grandson. And yet he can barter over rare paintings instead of his own grandson’s life?

Despite an engaging introduction, I found that Mark Wahlberg’s hostage negotiator Fletcher Chase grew increasingly passive and unnecessary as the film progressed.

I know Getty hired him for appearances with no intention of paying BUT Chase seemed genuinely concerned at bringing the boy home and proving the billionaire wrong. And yet sitting by the phone and stating the obvious seemed to be his key priority.

And the chemistry and strange flirting between him and Gail felt forced. Another cook spoiling the broth.

And once Williams was able to get into the fold, she took over his role (and purpose) anyway. Finally putting her foot down. Williams was a good lead BUT she spent too much of the film in the background. Only really getting to shine in the final third.

My main issue was the pacing. It felt 30 to 45 minutes longer than it should have been. The story felt stretched and there were only so many beautiful locations and capitalist quotes I could take.

I was engrossed in the grandson’s kidnapping and his estranged relationship with his handler Cinquanta (Romain Duris). And dare I say, I was more impressed by Duris’ performance as the conflicted Cinquanta than the stellar leads.

Both victims in a game with no winners. All for a bit of the green (No, not that green. Money).

I felt the rest of the supporting cast at Scott’s disposal only had generic roles to work with. It was good to see Timothy Hutton. Even if it was in a tragically minute role. And Andrew Buchan’s surprising (albeit blink and you’ll miss it) turn certainly delivered.

However, the finale was tense and riveting. A cobbled street chase sequence finally got everybody involved and delivered more of what I had expected from the get go.

I don’t need action 24/7 BUT I want the scenes to go somewhere. This should have been a brutal commentary on corporate greed BUT it was too disjointed and complacent.

It wasn’t a complete waste and there were moments to be had BUT for all the hype in the world, that was it. Moments. Despite the best efforts of a talented cast.

2.5/5

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*NEW* MANCHESTER BY THE SEA REVIEW *NEW*

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A wonderfully acted emotionally packed drama.

An uncle (Casey Affleck) is asked to take care of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the boy’s father (Kyle Chandler) dies.

It’s always a pleasure when a film can surpass your expectations and reward you with something so much more.

It was funny that I was complaining about the La La Land hype with this entry coming in a swift second on the overbearing hype train.

BUT I have to say, this was brilliant.

Casey Affleck has always played strange roles from introverted wackos to isolated loners. This role was perfect for him. He made the socially awkward Lee work a treat.

The slow burning style allowed the drama to unfold perfectly.

We followed Lee as he trundled along his humdrum lifestyle of a janitor at an apartment building. The mundane tasks, the strange tenants, the complaining and weird requests. A ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

The news of his brother’s passing triggering flashbacks. Flicking back and forth between the past and present as we got a better understanding of Lee and the reasons behind his fractious relationship with his nephew.

Baffled to be awarded guardianship after all that had happened. I hadn’t read anything about this film and the revelations with Lee’s past completely surprised me. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Lonergan has written a heartfelt story that dealt with grief on such levels. It was almost real.

The awkward exchanges as Lee had to deal with depressing funeral arrangements, idle chit chat and various reactions from people as they learnt of his brother’s passing. It couldn’t be more in tune.

It is a huge gamble to make a 2 and a half hour movie that relies solely on two leads. BUT I don’t think it would worked without Hedges and Affleck. They were brilliant.

The power of a performance that can deliver such emotion that you get caught up in it. There were several scenes that actually got to me. I felt for all of them. Affleck deserved that BAFTA.

It was surprisingly funny, upsetting and dark. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions as did our protagonist. Struggling to communicate with an awkward teenager who was more concerned about his social lifestyle than his father’s death.

The tension bubbling away as Lee, a creature of comforts, seemed desperate to get back to his quiet life. Of course, he had his reasons.

A scene involving frozen meat triggered an unexpected breakdown out of the blue with the pair finally coming to terms with their feelings. I laughed, I cried. Superb.

I remembered Lonergan’s last effort Margaret being one for a testing pace and I know a lot of people grumbled about the pace of this one. BUT I can’t even say this dragged. I was completely engrossed with the characters and the drama. I wanted more.

The supporting cast played their parts perfectly. Michelle Williams wasn’t in this enough. From all the hype, I expected her to be in this for a good portion of the film. Her screen time probably only accumulated to 15/20 minutes?

BUT she was excellent as Lee’s ex-wife. Their reunion was heartbreaking as we realised that Lee was a man tormented by his own demons long before the news of his estranged brother’s death.

Always happy to see Mr Friday Night Lights Kyle Chandler get more screen time as Lee’s brother. Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire) delivered as his volatile widow and I didn’t expect to see Matthew Broderick pop up in this?

Despite my praise, I still had my grumbles. I’m not sure whether it was the cinema surround sound BUT I found Lesley Barber’s music score overbearing. It didn’t take away the emotional impact of the scene BUT I found myself getting increasingly irritated.

It felt like someone was playing with the volume (Maybe they were. I did watch it in forum).

It was only the final act that disappointed me. And that was because it didn’t go in the direction I wanted. Forever a cynical optimist (Yeah, work that one out). Hoping for a happily ever after for the troubled pair.

BUT as the credits rolled (and a little more discussion after), I couldn’t see any other way that the story could end. It worked.

I went expecting in nothing and came out rewarded with a brilliantly acted and well written drama that dealt with grief on many levels.

It is a little gloomy BUT if you’re in the mood for a drama that delivers on the feels, look no further.

4/5

SUITE FRANCAISE REVIEW

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Zuts alors! I’ve seen more drama and heartbreak in an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Two stars for two charismatic leads.

During the early years of German occupation of France in World War II, romance blooms between French villager Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) and German soldier Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Such a shame. I really wanted to like this. It’s not all bad. Just a little disappointing.

For all the hype, I expected something more hard hitting.

The opening 15 minutes were slow burning BUT engaging. The archive footage showing German bombers descending upon Paris. Evacuees fleeing to the countryside in fear and desperation.

Williams’ shy protagonist and her uptight mother in law (Kristin Scott Thomas) trying to stick to their daily routine of collecting rent from their tenants. The tenants including several rather talented actors. Shame they weren’t used to their full potential.

Thomas (The English Patient) was good as the snobby sour faced mother-in-law. Stuck with a daughter who wasn’t fit to marry her valiant son and despised by the tenants for her ever-inflating rates.

However, there is also a little respect for her refusal to accept that the advancing Nazis are encroaching upon their village.

Williams (My Week With Marilyn) was excellent. She played the naive Lucile perfectly. Desperate to have a friend. Reduced to playing for a few minutes on the piano for leisure.

A harrowing bombing sequence in the countryside was unexpected and heart in mouth stuff. Villagers running for their lives. The Nazis showing no mercy. The silence through the aftermath was unsettling.

However, it seemed to take some time for the Nazi regiment to turn up. Despite the radio broadcast declaring France’s surrender. We are left with mindless chatter with the villagers about what the Germans might do.

The sound of the tanks and footsteps from the soldiers was brilliantly juxtaposed against the church singing as the regiment finally arrive.

Schonaerts (The Drop) made an instant impression. A well mannered officer who only wants a room to sleep and the key to the piano.

I expected the inevitable relationship between Williams and Schoenarts to take some time. BUT there wasn’t much else going on in the hour while this innocent encounter blossomed.

The leads had great chemistry and certainly kept me watching.

That’s not to say there wasn’t things going on BUT I couldn’t help question a few of them.

I felt the mish mesh of accents a little off putting. Considering Thomas is fluent in French, I expected her to see to speak a little of it. The only actor who did speak another language other than the Nazis was Lambert Wilson’s (The Matrix Reloaded) Viscount.

Ruth Wilson’s (Luther) broad English and Margot Robbie’s Aussie-Brit accent were a little annoying but alas, that’s Hollywood for you.

Speaking of which, Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). I couldn’t help but question her relevance by the end of the film. Other than modelling a fetching set of silk stockings that every villager commented on and scowling, she doesn’t actually do anything or contribute to the story in any capacity.

There were a couple of interesting turns. The bureaucracy jibes being one particular highlight. Wilson’s snobby Viscount desperately bribing the Nazi commander just so his wife doesn’t have to keep an officer at their home.

The letters of gossip that were sent to the Nazis to settle old scores among the villagers was an eye opener. Accusing neighbours of being homosexuals, Jews and thieves. Shocking.

Tom Schilling’s introduction as Lieutenant Kurt Bonnet certainly picked things up. His presence soon becomes a problem for Wilson and Sam Riley’s (Control) family. Riley was quite good as Benoit Labarie.

The inevitable tension between him and Bonnet brewing up to a riveting if highly predictable finale.

But for the 107 minute running length, I felt myself wanting more.

Lucile and Bruno’s relationship was dealt with tactfully. Their brewing romance bubbling over music. Lucille’s loyalties soon torn as she finds herself in a position of power to help the community by using Bruno’s feelings for her.

That dynamic was quite interesting BUT not a lot was made of it. Some of the villagers respecting her for the help. Others disgusted for her affiliation with the enemy.

It certainly captures the humanity behind a brutal war and their relationship certainly carried the film.

BUT it seemed to build to a frantic finale after such a juddery pace. Only for it to end so abruptly with Lucile providing a voiceover summarizing what happened after the war.

Thomas was pushed further and further into the background despite being one of the more interesting characters in the piece.

The ending was quite pessimistic without spoiling too much. I understand that there are no happy endings when it comes to war. BUT it was too open ended for my liking.

Arguably, it was as poignant a statement for the time but when you have invested your time into these characters, a little closure (no matter how open or ridiculous) would have been nice.

It was tough not to make comparisons to other war dramas. I still find The Book Thief one of the better war dramas that I have seen in the last few years.

I kept expecting something more to happen. A bigger impact. Anything.

It was all left until the final 15 minutes and then didn’t wrap up well enough.

Disappointing.

2.5/5