By Arthur Fishel III
A verifiable indictment of ‘star power’ being the only way to sell a film, All the Money in the World, rests its laurels on strong acting and the publicity of two scandals. The film stories the visceral drama surrounding the scandalous kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III while the film’s release has been most associated with scandalous allegations of sexual misconduct against former star Kevin Spacey who was subsequently replaced by Christopher Plummer.
While both Spacey and Plummer are highly capable actors—this film is a testament to the notion that you may not need a ‘star.’ Not to say that the film’s cast are not celebrated actors, but that the intended headliner, Spacey, proved to be wholly replaceable as the film’s antagonist and unnecessary to achieve award season buzz.
Director Ridley Scott enjoys taking us down the rabbit hole into darker places with sinister archetypes and John Paul Getty is no exception. Scott portrays Getty as an absolute, a truly self-consumed industry titan, whose only concern being what is mine. This delivers both pro and con as we yearn for a sincere context for Getty’s abominable antipathy for the plight of his family.
The film’s main malaise comes in the form of drawn out second act that borders on repetition. The battle at home between Gail Getty and her oil magnate ex father-in-law serves to undermine the intensity of the kidnapping plot points. Though a morose color palette highlights the bleak story, even Ridley Scott cannot malign the beauty of Rome, a prominent set piece for the story.
An exceptionally strong performance by Michelle Williams as Gail Getty grounds the thriller with a harsh family dynamic. Ms. Williams’s Gail pushes a strong assertive exterior which hides her increasingly fractured interior as she battles both kidnapper and Getty empire for son’s life. Also on the scene is Mark Wahlberg as an ex-CIA negotiator for Getty interests and French actor Romain Duris as the sympathetic kidnapper, both casted for their wholly capable dichotomy of good and evil.
All The Money in the World is a stylistic piece that will likely garner award show gold but fail to drum up the box office numbers that gritty thrillers typically do. Mr. Scott delivers on a feast for the eyes with performances for the ages that beg the question, do I miss Kevin Spacey? The answer is simply ’no.’