A couple of must-see destinations in America are the two Getty museums in Los Angeles. One located on a hillside was in the news recently when the surrounding hills were literally on fire.
The other museum, a recreation of an ancient Roman villa located in Malibu, has a brief cameo as a work in progress in the new film, All the Money in the World, that examines an incident in the life of John Paul Getty.
Getty, despite being in his own time the richest man in the world, was noted for being frugal. For instance, his mansion in England, Sutton Place, built in 1525, and where Getty lived during the last years of his life, at one time had lock boxes on the telephones and a pay phone for guests and servants. When one of his grandsons was kidnapped in Italy in 1973 Getty famously refused to pay the ransom.
All the Money in the World puts a face on the events of the kidnapping with emphasis on the kidnap victim J.P. Getty III (Charlie Plummer), his mom Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), Getty (Christopher Plummer), Fletcher Chase a fixer employed by Getty (Mark Wahlberg), and Cinqunta (Romain Duris, a French actor familiar to art house cinephiles) a member of the kidnap team. Charlie Plummer and Christopher Plummer are not related, and just share the common last name.
Under Ridley Scott’s direction, ATMITW unwinds in thriller mode, with taunt moments stacked on top of one another. The original kidnappers are busted and killed by Italian police but not before J.P. III has escaped only to be captured by another kidnapping entity. Even when the ransom of $17 million has been reduced to $4 million, Getty senior insists on only doling out what he can deduct off his income tax for that year and making the rest of the ransom a loan, with interest, to his grandson.
In the film’s most demanding scene we witness the second crew of kidnappers cutting off one of their captor’s ear, which is promptly mailed to an Italian paper. The scene of discovery at the newspaper offices is akin to the scene in Zodiac where reporter Robert Downey, Jr. is mailed cloth with blood of the serial killer’s latest victim.
The spine of All the Money in the World revolves around how Getty senior is so removed from human feeling that he’s literally a man in a citadel of his own hurbis, surrounded by fine art and the people he’s hired to run his empire. Plummer gets to the heart of this callous individual. Plummer has so insulated himself from reality, surrounded by his worldly possessions, that he himself can never feel the real emotion of contact with others. In this aspect he’s a bit like Charles Foster Kane lost in Xanadu.
The more you think about the film, the more you realize that if he were alive today Getty might well be the President. Getty paid little to no taxes, and his profits were funneled into buying art. At least the average bear can enjoy much of the Getty art at the two L. A. museums, which charge no admission save for parking expenses.
All the Money in the World has a cool desaturated look, with most of the primary colors reduced to blues and greys, compliments of longtime Scott collaborator cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. All of the performances deserve accolades, but it’s Christopher Plummer who cements the film’s coldness and detachment from normality with his portrayal of a man whose soul has been reduced to the bottom line of a financial statement.
Molly’s Game chronicles the life in the fast lane of Molly Bloom, a former competitive skier who started one of the highest stakes private poker games in modern times.
Bloom was eventually arrested by the FBI in a sweeping RICO Act bust and enlists the aid of a high-powered attorney to fight the charges. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba star.
Most of the film delves into who Bloom is deep down inside and how she deals with the subsequent litigation. Writing and direction from Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, The Social Network, and in his directorial debut) soar with the power of the spoken word.
Fans of poker will immediately be sucked into the intrigue of the draw of cards and the weird and unique characters that are consumed by the passion of gambling to the point of addiction. Non-poker fans will be amazed by the verbosity of Sorkin’s dialogue and especially the professional relationship between Chastain and Elba as well as her parallel link to her estranged father played with perfection by Kevin Costner.
Bloom is a real character in the film, although all the supporting players have been fictionalized. Player X is obviously Toby Maguire, and if you read the news you know that Bloom’s activities were first brought to public attention when one of her clients, who was busted for a Ponzi scheme money scam, gave a 200-plus page deposition wherein several of the L.A. celebrities who participated in Bloom’s clandestine games were named.
Bloom moves her game to New York City (specifically Brooklyn) and the stakes are raised from a 50K buy-in to a 250K buy-in. It’s here that events go south as many of Bloom’s new clients have Russian mafia affiliations, which puts her on the FBI radar.
Molly’s Game presents a parable of the rise and fall of American ingenuity, as always hampered by the moral dictates of a corrupt system that only allows the worst elements of society to float to the top.
All the Money in the World and Molly’s Game open wide on Christmas Day.