WHERE THE MONEY IS

PG-13
Reviews

Paul Newman stars in Where the Money Is as Harry, an aging master thief who escapes his prison sentence by feigning a stroke and getting transferred to a smalltown nursing home. His assigned caretaker, Carol (Linda Fiorentino), suspects Harry is faking his illness yet can't figure out how to prove it. Bored with her homelife with her grouchy husband Wayne (Dermot Mulroney), Carol relishes coming to work and trying to make Harry confess. Carol's 'tests,' including lap-dance titillation, all prove unsuccessful. Finally, during an outing, Carol shoves Harry into a lake and he is forced to admit he is not sick.

In order to further spice up her drab life, Carol convinces Harry to help her rob the town bank. Harry resists at first, but decides he could use the money to escape from the home. Wayne is likewise reluctant at first, then also agrees to help. After much plotting and planning, the threesome pull off the heist. But they have to outwit the police when part of their plan goes awry. Harry, Carol and Wayne must then decide whether to turn themselves in, become fugitives, or find some third alternative.

Even in its ads, Where The Money Is evokes Newman's classic The Sting, but the comparisons won't help this film succeed with audiences. The idea of re-casting Newman as a wily con artist may sound fun, but for all the film's jauntiness (actually, because of it), it merely depresses.

Precisely halfway through the story, the bank robbery gambit emerges. The viewer is then asked to approve of and encourage the criminal activity, which is troubling because the tone is so lighthearted and the protagonists do not learn from the error of their ways (in fact, quite the contrary). In other movies, this trio would represent 'the bad guys,' and even within the film, the only 'bad' character is a sleazy petty thief who works as an orderly in the nursing home. Yet, because they are played by charismatic leads, the main characters are excused of their supposedly 'victim-less' crime. The twist ending makes the viewer feel just as conned as the faceless victims.

One has to pity the stars a little. They lend their professionalism to the film, but are shown to poor advantage. For some reason, Newman sounds voice-dubbed or voice-enhanced and looks even older than his actual age. Fiorentino struggles to find a convincing way to portray a bored wife-turned-femme fatale. Her 'lap dance' scene to test Newman's stroke ploy recalls her best work-in The Last Seduction-but is inappropriate, even embarrassing to watch, here. Mulroney seems convincing enough as a working-class bloke, but extremely unconvincing in the scene where he agrees to go along with the robbery plans.

Director Marek Kanievska (best known for the overrated Less Than Zero) emphasizes everything wrong about the low-rent To Catch a Thief plot, including the extremely slow build-up and exposition. Mark Isham's lightly bouncy score plays incessantly, like Bernard Herrmann themes turned into elevator music. The look of the film is dark and ugly, unwittingly revealing the true bankrupt nature of the story's morals. Quite inadvertently, Where The Money Is may represent a troubling document of our times.

--Eric Monder