All the Money in the World

Lately there has been a focus on events that happened in the 1970’s.  Recently on television, there was the telling of the Patty Hearst kidnapping and her subsequent transition to identify and join in arms, her captors.  In the cinema, we have the movie “All the Money in the World” which is the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of th, then, richest man in the world; John Paul Getty.


To recap, in 1973, Mr. Getty’s grandson was kidnapped in Italy, and a ransom was demanded of the Getty family.  However, there was a few snags, first was that his mother; Gail Harris divorced John Paul Getty II a few years previously and did not have any money to pay a ransom.  When she divorced John Paul Getty II, she requested that she have full custody of the children without any monetary settlement.  A good decision, as her husband was a drug addict and that and his lifestyle made him an unfit parent.  The second hurdle was that John Paul Getty senior was notoriously frugal with his money and therefore would not pay a ransom.


The movie stars Christopher Plummer as John Paul Getty, Michelle Williams as Gail Harris and Mark Whalberg as Fletcher Chase; the go-to man for Mr. Getty.  The movie begins with the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and there is a series of flashbacks of the relationship of his parents.  The kidnappers, understandably, assume that their captive’s parents would pay a large ransom, however they underestimated the frugality of Getty senior and were not aware of the financial circumstances of their captive’s mother.  Michelle William’s character is a strong one, she is the only person in the Getty family who was not intimidated nor swayed by the family money.  As time passes and the ransom is not paid, the kidnappers ‘sell’ their captive to another set of kidnappers, these ones with a more sinister intent.  I wouldn’t be giving away the plot, as it is a well-known fact, that these kidnappers cut off the ear of their captive.


John Paul Getty lived in extreme wealth, as well as living in a huge mansion, he collected expensive art, numerous pieces are displayed in his house, and yet always had to feel that he was getting a deal when making a purchase.  Yet he was notoriously frugal, even installing a pay phone in his house, so that when anyone needed to make a phone call, they would have to pay for the privilege by using their own money.  It is this frugality that is the dominant theme throughout the movie.  As Fletcher Chase, Mr. Getty’s go-to man states, people’s relationship with money is never just about money.


The movie has a good ending, and is supported throughout by fine performances by Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Whalberg. Perhaps there was some artistic license taken in some of the dialogue and dynamics between the central characters, but nevertheless the movie is a sad commentary of the emptiness of a life solely focused on attaining and keeping extreme wealth.

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