$9.99 Directed by: Tatia Rosenthal Cast: (voices) Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Samuel Johnson Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 31, 2009
Plot: In this stop-motion animated film, denizens of an apartment building live interconnected lives. Their individual stories make up a mosaic about the choices and options life has to offer.
Who’s It For? Fans of animation, or just well-crafted films in general.
Expectations: I was hoping for a good story, what I had seen of the animation in stills looked pretty interesting.
Geoffrey Rush as The Angel: I didn't realize whose voice I was listening to until the film was over and the credits rolled. Perhaps it was because he was speaking in his normal voice, aka with an Australian accent. Regardless Rush does a great job as "The Angel," a mysterious winged man who may or may not have supernatural origins. There's some magical realism in the film, so the supernatural seems to coexist with the real; hence his character who has relationships with two of the apartment dwellers in this film. His most poignant scenes are with Albert (Barry Otto) a lonely retiree whose wife has passed on. Rush gives a very natural vocal performance. Score: 8
Anthony LaPaglia as Jim Peck: After a difficult initial encounter with The Angel, Peck tries to return to life as normal, clinging to his habitual behavior. But while he goes about the events of his day, he's continually struck by problems of mortality, both figuratively and literally. LaPaglia makes Peck kind of a normal guy. You wish he'd connect more with his sons, but I still had sympathy for him and his insistence on clinging to old school beliefs. Score: 8
Samuel Johnson as Dave Peck: Johnson's not an internationally famous actor, I didn't recognize anything on his imdb.com entry. Still his performance was the most grounded of the show. Dave is Jim's son, but his values are 180 degrees different. He orders a book for $9.99 in the mail meant to give him the meaning of life. Unfortunately, once he finds out what it is he can't get anyone else to listen to him. I found Dave to be the most relatable character in a film full of charming oddballs. Score: 8
Talking: The dialogue's very well written. The screenwriter's an Israeli author who adapted the script from his own short stories. It has the feel of an animated, and much shorter Short Cuts. Score: 8
Sights: Rosenthal has an excellent eye for stop motion. At times during the movie, I forgot that I was watching puppets and felt like I was watching human beings. Their movements are so accurate, the puppets convey a wealth of emotions, even without speaking. I'm really anxious to see what else she creates. Score: 9
Sounds: The score's lovely and works well for the sort of quirky/slice-of-life nature of the film. The voice actors were well selected as well. Score: 7
Best Scene: Dave teaches his Dad to swim like a dolphin, they both have a moment.
Ending: Each plot line has it's own ending, some of which seemed more final than others. I liked them all, except for the weird Lenny storyline. I'm assuming it's metaphorical but the story was pretty straightforward before then so it was an odd and disturbing turn at the end.
Questions: Where did this filmmaker come from? Is there any way to show puppet sex without being disturbing?
Rewatchability: It's so lovely, the animation is so rich that I'd enjoy watching it again with no problem.
OVERALL Despite being animated, $9.99 is a film for adults. There's language, puppet nudity and sex. But it's also a beautiful and surreal series of small stories about individuals and their search for meaning in their lives. I can't say that everyone will love it, but I recommend giving this film a shot if you're looking for something a little different this summer.
Final Score: 8/10