“Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none.” - Richard M. DeVos
For Movie Monday, today an Australian film made in my home city, Melbourne. The film is Robert Connolly’s “Three Dollars” (2005). It is based on Elliot Perlman’s novel of the same name, which I haven’t read, but which I was motivated by the film to read and hopefully will be doing so shortly. The film stars David Wenham, Frances O’ Connor, Sarah Wynter, Robert Menzies, David Roberts and Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik. The film was recommended to me by a friend who described it as “really good and thought-provoking – an intelligent film about modern-day problems and choices we each make in our lives”.
The plot involves Eddie (David Wenham), who is a typical “good guy” in his thirties, living in a large City (Melbourne but could be any other large Western city). He is a public servant in a government environmental testing agency as a chemical engineer. His latest assignment is to investigate soil samples, in what looks to be a lovely country spot, so that a large residential development can go ahead. Eddie’s wife, Tanya, is an academic and they have a young child, the adorable (and scene-stealing!) Abby. They also have a mortgage, problems relating to long-term financial security, career development, relationship stability and generally coping with the small and large problems of the modern-day urban lifestyle. The main premise of the plot is how much pressure a modern-day “nice guy” (who wants to do the right thing by his conscience and his integrity) can take before he succumbs to the temptation of corruption. Will he, won’t he?
I found the film a little tedious. Overlong, with too many details that weakened the plot and many scenes that diluted the central theme and distracted the viewer. For the first 90 minutes of the film (and it is 118 minutes long) there is little that happens and the humdrum details of everyday life are stretched out to the point of making one yawn. There is some distracting flash-back/flash-forward nonsense that is meant to enhance the plot, but that also was a distractor rather than adding to the artistic merit of the film or serving to build up to the climax. It is becoming an annoying habit with novelists and film-makers to do this flashing back and forth in order to “build tension”, but the device so often falls flat on its face…
Much is made of the “three dollars” of the title, and the three coins turn up in various scenes, but I found this a lame ruse, and ultimately devoid of the huge significance given to it by the writer/director. The tagline of the film is “It’s about change…” – an obvious pun and as far as puns go a weak one. Director Connolly says of the film; “it’s an epic story of an ordinary man”. Hardly epic, and Eddie is not too ordinary by modern urban standards…
Now for the good points. The acting was well done on most counts and as I mentioned earlier young Abby was played extremely well by Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik. There is a cute scene, homage to Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest” and I liked seeing my hometown on the big screen. With a bit of re-editing and lots more film on the cutting room floor, this movie could be improved dramatically. If you have not seen the film I won’t spoil it for you, but for those who have seen it, don't you think that the beginning of the film really weakens its whole plot development?
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