Where the Money Is

Where the Money Is is the feel good crime movie of the year. It’s a caper film even more lighthearted than some of Elmore Leonard’s work. It tries to please everyone by being at once a bank-robber movie, a love story, a rite-of-passage parable and under 90 minutes in length in one fell swoop. It shouldn’t surprise many that the film fully succeeds in only the last objective but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be an entertaining failure.

Linda Fiorentino, perfectly cast, plays Carol, a reasonably happy nurse at a local nursing home. She isn’t overjoyed by her job but she doesn’t resent it either; she likes people and there could be worse things out there for her than dealing with the elderly. One day, Carol gets news that the nursing home is getting a new addition. It seems that the state is running out of room in its prison hospitals so they will be sending Henry Manning (Paul Newman), a notorious bank robber who has suffered a stroke and is now a vegetable, to Carol’s establishment. Everyone else at the nursing home is outraged about the state forcing its leftovers on them but Carol doesn’t mind: this is just another patient on another day.

Soon, Carol begins to suspect what we have already been told by the film’s advertising campaign: that Harry is faking his stroke. She tries to make him come out of his hiding place within himself with loud noises and lapdances. When that doesn’t work, she takes desperate measures. She rolls him out to the lake and pushes his wheelchair along the dock, making it fall in the water. Sure enough, Henry climbs out, healthy as a cucumber.

Carol is compelled to help Henry keep up his charade until he can meet up with his partner-in-crime and run off. Carol’s boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) becomes concerned that Henry and Carol may be becoming romantically interested in each other. Meanwhile, Henry’s partner ditches him and Carol makes a proposal: why don’t the three of them do a little bank job of their own?

Every single thing I’ve read about Where the Money Is insists that Paul Newman utterly carries the movie. I beg to differ. Newman is great, as he always is, funny, sarcastic and always entertaining. But the real star of the movie, in my opinion, is Linda Fiorentino. I’ve long thought that she livens up every movie she is in and it is gratifying to see her finally get a lead performance. She’s 40 years old and she is still gorgeous and her quippy, charismatic way of delivering dialogue is perfect for this movie. Her presence in even something like Lost in Space II would make me settle comfortably in my seat.

The robbery that the three attempt in the film’s last third doesn’t make much sense, but that’s not really a problem. I had issues with what happened after it: Dermot Mulroney’s character is blatantly turned into a villain and Carol jumps headfirst into a completely unbelievable love affair with Henry. I’m not even necessarily talking about the 30 year age difference between them: we just don’t feel like the two have a future together. It seems that Henry would run away at the first sign of trouble.

The performances really anchor the movie. It’s a joy to watch the actors even when everything else fails. The plot is a mess but its inconsistencies are — just barely — outshadowed.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

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Street of Chance

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