In one of the most compelling scenes of Ridley Scott’s period crime drama All The Money In The World, Christopher Plummer’s character of billionaire John Paul Getty is seen admiring a precious object while explaining why he invests in things, not people.
He says artifices never deceive, unlike people. That is what makes him turn into a connoisseur, collecting priceless or invaluable (since he believes everything has a price) artifacts all his life as he walks by his loved ones, leaving them to their own miseries.
It is this characteristic trait that shapes the central narrative of the film where he refuses to pay a paltry sum of $17 million (considering he was the richest man in history) as ransom for one of his grandsons. “I have 14 granchildren. If I pay one penny now then I’ll be broke,” he reasons.
In another scene, when a person in crisis writes to him for a donation to cure a loved one’s illness, he writes back, “If I keep giving money for every charity proposal I get, I’ll be as destitute as you are.”
Clearly, Getty has little concern for loved ones, whether those of others or his own. Such a case of extreme rapacity can stem only from a man completely immersed in materialism, having no association whatsoever with flesh and blood.
However, there was one stark humane quality that Getty boasted of and that Plummer craftily masked with the character’s grabby streak. The apparent obsession for money was also a self-defense mechanism to conceal his monster size ego, which surfaces in certain scenes where he goes through weak or powerful moments.
In fact, his association with his daughter-in-law Gail Harris, played by Michelle Williams, has hints of his ego peppered all over it. Harris, well-versed with the covetous schemes of the old man, maintains that she wants no alimony from her divorced husband and would settle only with the custody of their children. Getty is taken aback by Harris’ unpredictable demand as he believes that everything has a price, including a divorce.
But Harris claims she does not ‘need’ the money and in the process, delivers a tough blow to the gigantic ego of the billionaire who gets the easiest deal of his life, rather casually. He reads into his former daughter-in-law’s confident smile, that her only purpose of doing so was to rob Getty of the adrenaline rush he gets from negotiating a tough deal. She shows indifference towards his estate which does not go down well with Mr Scrooge who spent a lifetime building it.
But he has ingenuous ways to get back at her. Once her son gets kidnapped and she knocks on Getty’s door for ransom money, he turns a deaf ear and delegates the negotiation and rescue operations to his right hand man, played by Mark Wahlberg. However, that would only make Harris regret her decision of knocking away the money he was gladly (or not so gladly) willing to hand out to her. Getty would only derive sadistic pleasure out of her worries. The blot of a deal too easily won would remain on his illustrious career.
He offers to pay the ransom only if she returns the custody of her children to her husband. Once she helplessly gives in, it would have given Getty enough reason to wave the victory flag. But as they say, greed is a bottomless pit. Getty makes sure that the realisation of defeat strikes Harris even after his death.
Post his demise, his heir becomes the rightful owners of his wealth. Since his son, and Harris’ former husband, is mentally unfit (he is a drug addict), the wealth is inherited by his grandchildren. But since they are still minors, their mother Harris becomes the interim owner of his estate.
To her amazement, she discovers that Getty’s organisation is registered as a family trust (only for tax deduction purpose). But the flipside is he cannot spend the wealth, only invest it. That is why he invests in objects, the way he likes it to be.
While one might romanticise with the notion that “it is not important to become rich but to stay rich”, Getty’s move has wider repercussions that go back to the initial deal with his daughter-in-law. In the closing scene of the film, a servant asks the now-rich Harris if she needs anything. “No, I have everything I need,” she says before she turns around and stares into the cold eyes of Getty’s bust.
It is then that the above mentioned realisation of defeat hits her hard. The same money that she rejected years ago, as a weapon of her choice against her former father-in-law, now sits comfortably in her lap. All thanks to a man who would let her get away with All The Money In The World, for the sake of getting the last laugh.
Published Date: Jan 10, 2018 12:37 PM | Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 12:37 PM