If you’re a dedicated SWITCH reader or SWITCHcast listener (and why wouldn’t you be?), you’ll know that we often complain when it comes to biopics that feature men and not the women next to them that are the real stars of the story - e.g. ‘The Theory of Everything’ and ‘Breathe’. Well, never did I think I’d see the day when the exact opposite is true. It’s funny how Hollywood believes that certain true stories are interesting enough to make a film out of them, but not interesting enough to leave them untouched by an overzealous “artistic license” that leave them unrecognisable and therefore moot. “Smarter” minds than mine, I guess.
In 1973 Rome, 16-year-old Paul Getty AKA John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, TV’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’) is kidnapped. Paul is the grandson of Industrialist J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’) - a person who at the time was known as the richest man in history. Painfully frugal, bitter and egotistical, Getty refuses to pay the substantial ransom, leaving Paul’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams, ‘Manchester By The Sea’) and the head of Getty’s security Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, 'Patriots Day') to placate the kidnappers and help reduce the ransom over the months of Paul’s abduction.
Yes, the Hollywood brush has been well and truly painted over this sordid tale. If any of the parties were actually still alive, I would suggest they sue Ridley Scott toot sweet - the biggest offence being MIA John Paul Getty Jr (Paul’s father). In the film he’s portrayed as a hedonistic addict who during Paul’s abduction is wheelchair-bound and cannot string a sentence together. In reality, he was keep abreast throughout the whole ordeal and spent his life being incredibly philanthropic and was even knighted. True, he had a substance abuse problem, but it hardly left him the shell of a human being Scott chose to portray him as.
I’ve never tried to hide my dislike for Ridley Scott, but it’s also never stopped me from enjoying the occasional film of his. This, however, is not one of them. This is one of history’s most fascinating stories. It also highlights the dark and seedy side of incredible wealth. Unfortunately, this is not how it’s played. While wonderfully acted and beautifully shot, ‘All the Money in the World’ is a superficial look at “the value of money” and the cost of family. Such a big part of me wonders what could have been if this film was left to the hands of, say, David Fincher instead.
Yes, the Hollywood brush has been well and truly painted over this sordid tale.
Elephant in the room: this film once starred Kevin Spacey. That film is gone and will never see the light of day. Does it matter? No. The role is the role. In both cases, performed by extremely talented men whom while they may have each brought a little something different to the role, I’m sure both gave it the gravitas and level of excellence they were capable of. Honestly, I was grateful to not have to suffer through Spacey’s overly-prostheticed face and strain to see the performance through it. For lack of a better term, let’s chock this one up to serendipity.