You can’t take it with you.


The big talking point of this Ridley Scott film is not of course the film itself but the fact that the disgraced Kevin Spacey (“Baby Driver“) was ‘airbrushed’ out of the movie, replaced by the legend that is Christopher Plummer. With that background, and the fact that the re-shoot only took 9 days (NINE DAYS!!!!), I must admit to having been a tad scornful when Plummer was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. “Oh” I thought “…it’s Judi Dench’s minimalistic performance in ‘Shakespeare In Love’ all over again”.

An innocent abroad. Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III, who really should have done his travel security training. (Source: Scott Free Productions).

But actually on watching the film I take it all back. Plummer’s role is not, like Dench’s, a mere eight minutes of screen time, but extensive and pivotal. Not only was his nomination richly deserved (his performance is cold, eerie and magnificent!) but Ridley Scott deserved an award for getting so much great footage in the can in such a short space of time.

Filling in the gaps. Christopher Plummer as John Paul Getty, here in flashback with JPGIII as a child (Charlie Shotwell). (Source: Scott Free Productions).

The film tells the true story of the feckless John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation), grandson to the richest man in the world John Paul Getty I. While in the Piazza Farnese in Rome, JPGIII is kidnapped and a $17 million reward is sought for his release. Whilst claiming to love his offspring, the tycoon is basically a ‘tight git’ and the film concerns the battle of  the young heir’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams, “Manchester By The Sea”; “The Greatest Showman”) to persuade JPG1 and his right-hand negotiator Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, “Patriot’s Day”, “Deep Water Horizon“) to shake the money tree* and get JPGIII released.

*To be fair, JPGIII hasn’t exactly helped his case as it emerges he had previously joked about getting himself kidnapped to get his grandfather’s ransom money!

Hold the front page. Gail Harris (Michelle WIlliams) and Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) run the gauntlet of the press. (Source: Scott Free Productions).

As I didn’t remember the historical outcome of this, I was in a suitable amount of suspense as to where it would go. It is clear though, from the wiki version of the story, that the ending was significantly ‘sexed-up’ for the movie.

Ridley Scott sensibly balances the views of the Getty’s with the views of the kidnappers, with a semi-sympathetic Italian (Romain Duris) being the focus of those scenes in rural Calabria.

Romaine Duris as Cinquanta, the kidnapper with (a bit of) a heart. (Source: Scott Free Productions).

But it’s the scenes with Plummer that really engage. The man as portrayed is an enigma, eccentrically washing his own clothes to save a few pennies and always (ALWAYS) trying to get 20% more on even the most personal of decisions. It makes me really intrigued to see Spacey’s portrayal now… I wonder if the alternate cut might make it onto the Blu-ray?  I actually think though that Plummer was the better choice for this:  I could see Spacey bringing far too much of Frank Underwood to the role.

A fallen star. Kevin Spacey’s so far unseen portrayal of John Paul Getty. (Source: Scott Free Productions).

Elsewhere in the cast, I think Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg are both solid without ever being spectacular and it’s nice to see the talented Andrew Buchan (“The Mercy“; “Broadchurch”) in a more memorable big screen outing as JPG2:  his drug-addled son (and JPG3’s father).

Overall, it’s an interesting watch and had me sufficiently engaged to want to watch it again. But without Plummer’s role it wouldn’t really amount to nearly as much.

Fad Rating:  FFFf.

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