Fri, Aug 01, 2008 - Page 16 News List

[FILMREVIEW] Crime does pay, for movie stars

Is wealth, ill-gotten or not, the answer to everything? Yes, yes, yes! proclaims 'Mad Money'

By Stephen Holden  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

In the breezy, amoral heist comedy Mad Money, Fun With Dick and Jane meets 9 to 5 on the way to recession. If this uncomfortably timely movie lacks the political bite of the first and the cozy star chemistry of the second, it sputters to fitful life in the crooked grin of Diane Keaton, whose character, Bridget Cardigan, an upper-middle-class homemaker in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, develops an insatiable lust for larceny.

As in Fun With Dick and Jane, financial crisis inspires serious theft. No sooner has Don (Ted Danson), Bridget's husband, sprung the alarming news that he has been downsized from his cushy corporate job and is US$286,000 in debt, than she springs into action.

Is there a place in the workforce for an upper-middle-class woman of a certain age with a degree in comparative literature and no job experience? Yes, if she accepts humiliating work as a janitor in the local Federal Reserve Bank. Surrounded by money in a high-security environment of surveillance cameras, checkpoints and employees subject to random searches, Bridget, while pushing a mop, becomes obsessed with getting her hands on some of the dough.

The lucre she craves is literally filthy. Every day carts of old bills are transported under lock and key to shredding machines. Since the money is going out of circulation, diverting some wouldn't really be theft, would it? That's how Bridget rationalizes her scheme, in which she enlists two handpicked co-conspirators to change the locks on the carts so they can grab some moola during its transit to the shredders. She airily calls it recycling.

Bridget initially decides to steal just enough to allow her family to get out of debt and not have to sell its fancy house. But just enough soon becomes more than enough, as she amasses a basement's worth of dirty money.

FILM NOTE

Mad Money

 

Directed by: Callie Khouri

Starring: Diane Keaton (Bridget Cardigan), Queen Latifah (Nina Brewster), Katie Holmes (Jackie Truman), Ted Danson

(Don Cardigan), Adam Rothenberg (Bob Truman), Roger Cross (Barry), Stephen Root (Glover), Christopher McDonald

(Bryce Arbogast), Finesse Mitchell (Shaun)

Running time: 104 minutes

Taiwan release: Today


Bridget and her partners - Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah), a single mother raising two children, and Jackie Truman (Katie Holmes), a flibbertigibbet who lives in a trailer with her husband, Bob (Adam Rothenberg) - are a demographically oddball threesome calculated to appeal equally to the Woody Allen, Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer crowds.

Having grabbed some loot without being caught, the women go wild and deliriously toss it into the air. As the movie invites you to share their delight, you may feel a tad unclean. Is wealth, ill-gotten or not, the answer to everything? Yes, yes, yes! proclaims the movie, directed by Callie Khouri from a screenplay adapted by Glenn Gers from the British television film Hot Money.

The attachment to the project of Khouri, whose screenwriting debut, Thelma and Louise, made her Hollywood's go-to gal for stories of empowered sisterhood, lends it a feminist credential. And because two of the film's women become their family's breadwinners, Mad Money is another fable of sisters doing it for themselves. Danson's stay-at-home husband becomes a reluctant collaborator who agrees to run a sham consulting business from the house as a cover story for their affluence.

The movie's weakest link is Holmes' underwritten Jackie, a one-note character who dances around the bank wearing headphones. While Bridget and Nina bond amiably (Nina is one of Latifah's meatier recent screen roles, which isn't saying much), Jackie registers as a ditsy afterthought. Nina is given a love interest in Barry (Roger Cross), a soft-hearted security guard who, spotting the signs of money stuffed under her shirt, remarks, "Unless you have very hard, rectangular breasts, we need to talk."

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