For whatever its merits, All the Money in the World may be remembered as the movie that Kevin Spacey was erased from. Following numerous accusations of sexual impropriety, Spacey, who played the pivotal role of J. Paul Getty, was replaced by Christopher Plummer just a few weeks before the film was released. I don’t know if the Spacey version will ever see the light of day, so I can’t compare the performances, but I can say this: Plummer deserves his Oscar nomination. He’s terrific, and the best thing about the movie.
Ridley Scott directs a script by David Scarpa that covers the kidnapping of Paul Getty, a teenager living in Rome, by a radical organization. He is the grandson of J. Paul Getty, who, we are told, is not only the richest person in the world, but the richest person in the history of the world (I’m not sure about that), having a fortune of over one billion dollars (which is the equivalent of nine billion today). The old man is kind of a real-life version of Montgomery Burns (or, before that, Ebenezer Scrooge), who has a pay phone in his house and will not pay the ransom, reasoning that all his other grandchildren would be kidnapped if he did.
Of course this frustrates the boy’s mother (Michelle Williams), who works with a kind of fix-it man of Getty’s, played by Mark Wahlberg. They work with the Italian police, who try to find the boy. They do end up raiding the kidnapper’s lair, but the boy has been sold to another group.
Scott is an old hand and knows how to tell a story, but the one major drawback of the film is what it thinks about all this. The score, by Daniel Pemberton, has a touch of whimsy to it, but otherwise there’s nothing funny going on. While Plummer is terrific in the role, there seems to be nothing the script is saying about him except he is a “rapacious old fuck.” We know that he basically abandoned his son, who comes crawling back for a job but yields to drugs. He seems to love his grandson, but won’t pay a ransom until it becomes tax deductible. Is the spine of this film really just that J. Paul Getty was a terrible person?
All the Money in the World is still entertaining. It is not historically accurate–Wahlberg is playing a fictional character, and so are several of the actors playing kidnappers, including one who becomes sympathetic to the boy’s situation. Williams, as usual, is great, particularly when she learns something at the end of the film and a bit of a smile crosses her face. Scott includes a few scenes that have a haunting beauty, such as parallel scenes of groups of people counting the ransom money.
But the best reason to see All the Money in the World is for Plummer. I can only imagine what this is doing to Kevin Spacey.