How much are we willing to sacrifice for the people we love? What is the impact of greed on the self and the family? What do we do when things are beyond our control? How do we respond when evil seems impossible to conquer?
These are just a few of the questions faced by the film All the Money in the World. Set mainly in Italy during 1973, with a number of locational and historical deviations, All the Money in the World tells the story of Paul Getty III’s (Charlie Plummer) kidnapping and his mother’s (Michelle Williams) efforts to bring him home. Paul Getty is the grandson of oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty, one of the wealthiest Americans in history whose lifetime of art and artifact collection constitutes most of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. All the Money in the World is inspired by true events and based on John Pearson’s book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty.
There are many things to be said about this film, so I will touch on only a few here. The set of the movie was wonderfully rich and textured. The sidestreets and countrysides of Italy bring a viscerality to the events, enhancing their intensity and enchantment. I am particularly fond of films set in Italy. I have Italian roots (namely Sicilian) and I had the opportunity to study in Rome and the surrounding regions for four months. The ancient grandeur and perpetual humanity of Italy are unforgettable, and All the Money in the World captures those qualities quite well. The soundtrack (by Daniel Pemberton) draws the audience into the story will thrilling vivacity and variety. It is massive in its expanse and intimate in its effect. The film also captures the period very very effectively in all the details, down to Mrs. Getty’s clip-on earrings. This made the story all the more real and impactful.
The performances are incredible. Christopher Plummer (more on him and his role below) is a master of his craft, and that is evident in his work as Getty. Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, and Romain Duris all provide compelling performances. However, something special must be said of Michelle Williams. I am absolutely in awe of Ms. Williams and her work as Mrs. Getty. Her portrayal of a mother determined to endure whatever she must to protect her children is nothing less than heroic. She is riveting in this film.
The story behind Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of J.P. Getty merits some attention. Kevin Spacey was originally cast in the role, and his name was even included in the early marketing campaigns for the film. After the numerous sexual assault allegations against him, Ridley Scott recast the part. Scott reportedly spent a quarter of the film’s budget to make the necessary adjustments (Vilkomerson). On November 8th, hardly a month before its scheduled release date of December 22nd, Scott announced that all of Spacey’s scenes would be reshot with Christopher Plummer playing the role. The rest of the key actors, Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg included, willingly spent Thanksgiving week working on set to ensure that the film would be released as promised. The release date was ultimately pushed to Christmas Day, but for other reasons – the film was complete before its original release date.
I find this effort and determination on the part of the cast and crew just as inspiring and moving as the film itself. Michelle Williams spoke on the decision,
This doesn’t do anything to ease the suffering of people who were all too personally affected by Kevin Spacey, but it is our little act of trying to right a wrong. And it sends a message to predators — you can’t get away with this anymore. Something will be done. (Vilkomerson)
Scott also commented,
You can’t tolerate any kind of behavior like that. And it will affect the film. We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people. It’s that simple. (Vilkomerson)
This is precisely the sort of spirit and example our society needs. See Entertainment Weekly for a great article written on this story.
Running over two hours and covering a complicated series of events, All the Money in the World takes the distinct risk of losing its grip on its audience. The film meets this challenge masterfully. I was spellbound by the entire movie. And it stuck with me through the drive back to my apartment and even into my written of this review. It is one of those movies that remains present in your mind even after it is over. It is one of those movies that makes you drive home in silence.
Keep this film in mind come Oscar season. I hope it receives the recognition it deserves. Most especially, I hope that Michelle Williams is recognized and honored for her exemplary performance.
Final Take: All the Money in the World is a must see.
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: David Scarpa
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer
Premiere: December 18, 2017 (Samuel Goldwyn Theater, CA)
Theatrical Release: December 25, 2017
Vilkomerson, Sara. “Ridley Scott breaks silence on replacing Kevin Spacey in All the Money in the World”. Entertainment Weekly, November 29, 2017.