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Movie Review

If being rich solves some problems, it creates others—problems most people don't have to worry about.

Take the problems of the Getty family, for instance.

In 1973, aging oil oligarch J. Paul Getty is the wealthiest man in the world. The first person ever, we're told, to earn the title of billionaire.

But Getty's vast resources have not made him a generous man. In fact, just the opposite: He guards every cent jealously, a paranoid financial savant who could have taught Scrooge a thing or two about hoarding silver and gold.

Getty has always been more preoccupied with mammon than family. His son is a dissolute drug addict. His grandson, Paul, once joked that the only way to get money out of his famously tight-fisted grandfather was to stage a kidnapping.

So when the teen goes missing in Rome and a ransom of $17 million is demanded for his safe return, former CIA agent Fletcher Case—the man whom Getty tags to look into the situation—concludes it's a hoax.

It isn't.

Soon it becomes sickeningly clear that Paul is indeed in the clutches of men determined to claim their multimillion dollar ransom: the boy's ear arrives in an envelope at a Rome newspaper, with more of him promised if the money's not delivered soon.

Paul's mother, Gail, divorced his father and walked away without demanding a cent. She cannot pay, even though everyone believes she can. And J. Paul Getty refuses to do so. After all, he has 13 other grandchildren. And what if kidnappers managed to nab them, too? How many millions might it cost him?

So as Gail and Fletcher work with police to locate Paul before more of the boy shows up in the mail, the richest man in the world has to decide what he loves more: his money or his grandson.

Positive Elements

This movie depicts Gail Harris as a fierce, principled mother who's determined to secure her son again. Even though Fletcher works for J. Paul Getty, he increasingly becomes Gail's ally as he labors to locate Paul. Fletcher eventually confronts the oil baron about his extreme selfishness and love of money.

Though the story that unfolds here is a shocking one, it could be said that it delivers a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of wealth.

Spiritual Content

Getty is convinced he's the reincarnation of Roman Emperor Hadrian. He believes it so strongly that when the Italian government won't sell him the ruins of Hadrian estate, Getty has the vast complex recreated stone for stone in Southern California.

One of Paul's captors wears a cross.

Sexual Content

Before his kidnapping, we see Paul talking to scantily clad Italian women who are obviously prostitutes. He has no real interest in them, though it's perhaps suggested he's had intimate experiences with similar women in the past.

Paul finds his father (who's high on drugs) in the arms of another woman in Morocco. (We see their bare arms and shoulders.) That scene also pictures a seemingly topless woman's bare back.

There's a verbal reference to Getty doing an interview with Playboy magazine in 1965. He also talks about being able to remember, in the guise of Emperor Hadrian, all the times that he "made love to his concubines." We see a nude, classical male statue. A woman's outfit reveals cleavage.

Violent Content

Paul is roughly yanked into a van and has a hood thrown over his head. The boy desperately tries to convince his kidnappers not to cut his eyes out after he sees two of the men without their masks. One of them also says, "If she [Gail], doesn't pay, we mail her a finger." That doesn't happen, but something similar eventually does.

Several of Paul's original kidnappers are shot by police, but he's then transferred into the clutches of an even more ruthless Italian criminal kingpin before police can rescue him. That man orders Paul's ear to be cut off because the ransom hasn't been paid, and the camera watches the gruesome deed as a doctor removes the appendage; Paul screams and squirms while being held down by multiple other men. We see a fountain of blood shoot up from the wound afterward, and Paul wears a bloody bandage the rest of the movie.

The boy also manages to light a fire in a field outside one of the buildings where he's kept as part of an escape plot. We hear that he once set his school on fire as well.

Several people shoot clay pigeons with rifles on one of Getty's estates. Paparazzi repeatedly and recklessly chase Gail and Fletcher when they travel through Rome by car. We see a corpse that's been burned beyond recognition. Gail hits Chase with a phone, bloodying his head. One man clotheslines another who's running.

Crude or Profane Language

About a dozen f-words, and four s-words. God's name is misused at least twice. We hear one to three uses each of "h---," "d--n," "b--ch" and "b--tard." Someone exclaims, "Holy mother!" We see a crude hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Various characters drink alcohol (wine, beer, champagne) and smoke cigarettes throughout the movie. (And because this is a movie set in the '70s, we even see people smoking on commercial airplanes.)

One of Paul's kidnappers tries to get him to drink hard liquor before the doctor comes to cut his ear off. The man tries to convince Paul that it'll make the experience less painful. Said doctor uses a rag drenched in (apparently) chloroform to knock Paul out, but he horrifically awakens before the "surgery" is complete.

Paul's father is shown stoned on hashish in Morocco. It's said that he once did drugs with Mick Jagger. By film's end, it's obvious that these illicit substances, combined with his alcoholism, have taken such a toll on the man that he's nearly in a vegetative state.

One of Paul's captors smokes a marijuana joint.

Other Negative Elements

Getty initially balks at the ransom amount to save his grandson, yet still pays millions of dollars for pieces of rare artwork as well as spending more of his fortune on multiple palatial estates in various countries. He sees his heirs primarily as finanicial liabilities: "A man who has children gives hostages to fortune," he opines.

[Spoiler Warning] Getty only relents and gives several million dollars to the kidnappers when he finds a loophole that allows him to take a portion of the ransom as a tax deduction. The rest, he says, is a loan to his son that will have to be repaid with interest. Elsewhere, Paul manages to escape once and thinks he's safe at a police department in a small town. But the police officer there returns him to his brutal kidnappers.

Getty delivers a monologue about why he loves possessions more than people. He says people are often "parasites." Then he adds, "That's why I like things. … The are exactly what they appear to be. The never change. They never disppoint. There's a purity to things that I've never found in another human being."

We see a man's back as he urinates outside. Someone else squats in tall weeds (nothing is quite shown, though we do glimpse him begint to pull his pants down) to defecate.

Conclusion

All the Money in the World presents J. Paul Getty as a man who views every aspect of his life—including family relationships he insists that he values—through an economic filter. "You see, everything has a price. The great struggle in life is coming to grips with what that price is," he tells someone. We also hear him say, "There's very little in life worth paying full price for," as well as, "Seventeen million? That's an awful lot for such a young boy."

This tragic morality tale unpacks how one stingy man's unfathomable riches nearly destroyed his grandson. This is not a story of nuance, though Christopher Plummer (who replaced Kevin Spacey after the latter was accused of multiple sexual improprieties) certainly plays Getty to the dastardly hilt. Instead, it's a story built on character contrast: Getty's greed vs. Gail's generosity.

Getty believes he and members of his family are fundamentally different from others. "To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing," the old man tells young Paul. In contrast, Gail tells a police officer, "I'm not a real Getty. I never was. I'm an ordinary person."

But … she's not. Indeed, Gail's life is inextricably intertwined with the riches of the man she loathes. And his riches are the reason for her poor son's abduction and his torturous treatment.

Ultimately, director Ridley Scott delivers a hauntingly graphic depiction of the destructive capacity of money. It's the kind of movie that might prompt you to think, "Maybe being rich isn't all it's cracked up to be after all." Then again, any number of biblical parables deliver the same lesson …and much less grotesquely.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Comedy

Author

Cast

Michelle Williams as Gail Harris; Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty; Mark Wahlberg as Fletcher Chase; Romain Duris as Cinquanta; Timothy Hutton as Oswald Hinge; Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III; Charlie Shotwell as Young John Paul Getty III; Andrew Buchan as John Paul Getty II; Marco Leonardi as Mammoliti

Director

Ridley Scott ( )

Distributor

Sony Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

December 25, 2017

On Video

April 10, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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