“All the Money in the World” will go down as a footnote to film history. This drama about the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III had a month until its theatrical release when the decision was made to replace Kevin Spacey, who has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault and who co-starred as J. Paul Getty, with Christopher Plummer. Amazingly, all of Spacey’s scenes were reshot and the film came out close to its original late December release date. Not long after this, it was revealed that Mark Wahlberg, who plays Getty Senior’s advisor, had received $1.5 million dollars for his reshoots while Michelle Williams, who plays Getty III’s mother, received a measly per diem. Shortly after this pay disparity news broke, Wahlberg donated his fee to Time’s Up in Michelle Williams’s name.
I bring all this up, in case you haven’t already heard it, because the back story and what it says about Hollywood is far more interesting than the movie itself. Ridley Scott and his screenwriter, David Scarpa, lay out a fairly straightforward kidnapping thriller and then attempt to expand it into a nightmare vision of capitalistic greed. The film’s ambitions far exceed its grasp.
There are some good performances, although Wahlberg, bespectacled and cerebral, is miscast in a role that doesn’t require much physicality. Williams is ardent throughout, and Romain Duris, as a hot-tempered kidnapper, is convincingly conflicted. Excellent, too, are Charlie Plummer as the kidnapped heir and Christopher Plummer (no relation) playing J. Paul Getty as an unrepentant Scrooge who refuses to pay the kidnappers the ransom that would spare his grandson’s life. At 88, Christopher is at the top of his game. He turns Getty into a dastardly miser with an aggrieved core. There hasn’t been such a lonely mogul in the movies since Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane expired with “Rosebud” on his lips. Grade: B- (Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images, and brief drug content.)