One of the biggest surprises of the 75th annual Golden Globe Award nominations was the trio of nods for “All the Money in the World.” The movie, based on the real-life 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and his billionaire grandfather’s refusal to pay the ransom, carried high expectations heading into awards season. Of course, that was before one of its stars, Kevin Spacey, faced allegations of sexual misconduct, some involving teenage boys.
Instead of scuttling the film — or pushing it to a later date — director Ridley Scott re-shot every one of Spacey’s scenes, with Christopher Plummer replacing Spacey as billionaire oil tycoon John Paul Getty I. The decision to erase Spacey from the film and re-shoot most of the film in a little more than a month was unprecedented. The end result garnered Golden Globe nominations for Best Director (Scott), Best Supporting Actor (Plummer), and Best Actress — Drama (“Manchester by the Sea’s” Michelle Williams).
The Golden Globes don’t always reflect the critical consensus. At the time of this article’s publication, “All the Money in the World” had a 79 percent freshness rating on critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, with reviewer reactions running the gamut from celebration to relative disappointment.
Here’s what some critics had to say about the film, which also stars Dorchester native Mark Wahlberg alongside Plummer and Williams.
Many critics came away impressed with Plummer’s performance and Scott’s direction, given the time constraints. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle went into the film assuming that Plummer would show up in only a few pivotal scenes, and was amazed when it turned out that Plummer played such a significant role.
Plummer delivers brilliance in what had to be record time, and every person sharing a scene with Plummer — Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, in particular — comes in fresh and spontaneous, responding anew to another actor’s completely different energy.
New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis briefly commended Wahlberg’s performance as ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chase, but saved most of her detailed praise for Plummer.
Mr. Plummer can be an aloof, fairly cool screen presence and he chills Getty Sr. with cruel glints, funereal insinuation and a controlled, withholding physicality.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy lauded both Williams and Wahlberg, but led off his review with a full-throated celebration of octogenarians Scott and Plummer.
Twilight years? Ridley Scott will hear none of it — he has just made the paciest, most dynamic film ever made by an 80-year-old director. And as for Christopher Plummer, he delivers the best screen performance ever given by an actor who, a month before the film’s debut, hadn’t even been cast yet.
The Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney praised Scott as a professional, writing that the director’s steady hand makes “All The Money in the World” feel “smoothly assured.” But Feeney also said that “All the Money” suffered from trying to do too much at once, giving the film two and a half stars out of four.
A better title might have been “All the Movies in the World.” We get a thriller, of sorts, and a crime movie, of sorts (Romain Duris, as a kidnapper, gives the most appealing performance). It’s also a morality tale crossed with family melodrama.
Associated Press film critic Jake Coyle called Michelle Williams’ performance as Gail Getty the film’s “saving grace,” and said he felt that the film would have been better served with more of her storyline.
“All the Money in the World” ought to have aimed more ambitiously for the complete tragedy of the Gettys, or stuck more resolutely to Gail’s perspective. Instead, it bounces erratically between its main players and loses steam every time Williams leaves the screen.
The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz said that Plummer’s performance was the only redeeming part of “All the Money,” which he said would be “an absolute bore” without him.
Ironically, the most shoddily executed scenes are the ones in which Plummer is nowhere to be found. For a film that revolves around a high-stakes kidnapping, it is suspiciously bereft of dramatic tension. For a story that purports to strip away the flash of wealth and examine the greed that lurks underneath the world of privilege, its script is entirely surface-skimming. For a project that aims to hook mature and discerning adult moviegoers that other studios have left behind, All the Money in the World is, frankly, so very stupid.
CNN’s Brian Lowry said that Plummer’s performance and Scott’s race against the clock weren’t enough to make the movie worth seeing for most people.
“Everything has a price,” the elder Getty sneers [in the film]. Weighing the benefits, “All the Money in the World” has its strong points, but it’s debatable whether they add up to being worth the price of a ticket.