|© 2000-2010 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Trading off the iconic presence of star Paul Newman, who has played
numerous variations on this character in his long and distinguished career
(including such signature roles as Butch Cassidy, 'Fast' Eddie Felson in The
Hustler and Henry Gondorf in The Sting), Where the Money Is proves a
modest caper film that is a lightweight but enjoyable diversion from the usual
multiplex fare. In many ways, the film is a throwback to the kind of star vehicles
crafted in the late 1950s and 60s. Take an cunning, slightly older man and pair
him with a sexy younger woman (e.g., To Catch a Thief, The Thomas Crown
Affair) and you have the basic ingredients for a formulaic but pleasant story.
The joy comes in watch old pro Newman mix it up with femme fatale Linda
Fiorentino who here trades a bit on her best-known role in The Last Seduction.
(Indeed, the actress has described this character as Bridget Gregory in another
life.) Here, she's called Carol and works in a nursing home with a marriage to
her high school sweetheart (Dermot Mulroney) that's approaching stagnation.
Carol is unhappy in that vague way some women get. She is approaching 40 and
feels trapped by her small-town life and dead-end job. Enter Henry Manning, a
master bank robber who has apparently had a stroke. It's a jarring image to see
Newman confined to a wheelchair, speechless. Carol becomes intrigued by her
new charge and investigates his background. Once she's learned of his history,
she begins to suspect that Henry is just playing possum - albeit quite well. Of
course, it's true - it IS Paul Newman, after all - and eventually she attempts to
enlist his aid in pulling off one last heist.
Fiorentino reportedly nurtured this script and was instrumental in the
casting of her male leads. She chose wisely. At 75, Newman is still a vital and
sparkling screen presence. In the early scenes when Henry acts the part of a
stroke victim, he offers a demonstration of the famous dictum that less is more.
Even in repose, he commands the screen. Mulroney is once again cast as in the
more passive role, one he has perfected in numerous other films (most notably
in My Best Friend's Wedding), but he also demonstrates the true hallmark of a
supporting actor. He knows how to make his co-stars shine without
overpowering them. He and Fiorentino share a nice chemistry that makes them
believable as a long-standing couple and he's convincing as a relatively honest
man who willingly becomes corrupt for the woman he loves. In some ways, he
has the classic female role in a film noir but is confident and secure enough to
carry it off with elan.
Like Newman, Fiorentino plays off her persona. As Carol becomes more
involved with Henry, she sheds the good girl façade and becomes a bit more
craven. It is she who proposes the pair team up and the actress projects the
qualities of a woman who feels this is her last chance to change her life. In one
cleverly staged scene, she and Newman dance and in those few steps, he
essentially seduces her and makes her long for something if not better at least
Director Marek Kanievska began his career with the terrific Another
Country and followed up with the uneven Less Than Zero has always been an
actor's director. After a 13-year absence during which he made commercials,
Kanievska returns to form with this film. While it's not a major theatrical event -
the script has a number of implausibilities - Where the Money Is does allow its
three principals to shine.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content
Running time: 89 mins.