Friday, January 27, 2012

One for the Money [2012]

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -

One for the Money (directed by Julie Anne Robinson, screenplay by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius based on the gritty New Jersey romance novel by the same name by Janet Evanovich) is a remarkably good, well written, laugh-out-loud funny, if at times foul-mouth, rom-com that really deserves far more recognition than this initial installment is going to get.  However, One of the Money as a novel is the first in a series.  So one gets the sense that we're going to be seeing far more of Stephanie Plum (played by Katherine Heigl who believed in the picture enough to be an executive producer for the film) in the years to come.

What's the film about?  The film begins with Stephanie Plum approaching her parents' working-class Trenton, NJ home in her red sports car convertable, telling us her situation: She was coming home to Trenton, 6 months after being fired from working in the lingerie department at a Macy's department store somewhere in Newark, knowing that this was probably the last time she was driving her red convertible.  She parks the car in front of her parents' house, takes a long last look at it, and notes that she's 5 minutes late, meaning that her mother will think that she's dead.

Ma (played by Debra Monk) opens the door and the first thing out of her mouth is indeed "You're five minutes late, I thought you were dead."  Stephanie shrugs her shoulders, passes by the statue of Mary as the Immaculate Conception on her parents' porch and enters the house.  Ma notices Stephanie's car, confused, impressed, we don't really know, because before she can say anything, Stephanie tells her "Don't worry Ma, it'll be gone within an hour."  And the repo people are there taking the car away in less than ten minutes ...

Steph's home, so the family sits down to have dinner.  There's Ma, there's Pa (played by Louis Mustillo) and Grandma Masur (played by Debbie Reynolds).  Stephie shares her sob-story.  She's lost her job -- six months ago -- they just took her car and she's broke.  The folks quickly chime in with kind, well-meaning, "we're on your side" but, of course, totally obvious, generally inappropriate and certainly unsolicited advice:  "You need a job," says Pa.  "You need a husband," adds Ma.  Grandma, confused, chimes in, wondering how bad the economy's must have become, 'cause: "Everybody likes a good thong ..." And there it is ... :-).

A job's still probably the most realistic thing to find at this point.  Steph's already been married.  It didn't work out, has no particular prospects and isn't exactly looking.  Heck even her hair's all frizzy ... But where then to get a job?  Ma, pa and grandma scratch their heads and come up with Cousin Vinnie, who runs a Bail-Bonds place in the center (or at the edge) of town (take your pick ...).  "Cousin Vinnie?  He tried to make-out with me at my wedding?"  But at least it could be quick money.  We find out at Vinnie's (played by Patrick Fischler) Bail Bonds place what happened: "Steph, look I'm sorry about what happened back then.  I was very, very drunk and you looked like an old flame."  "Vin, I was in a white dress and a veil." "Yes, but I was very, very drunk ..."  And so it goes.  

Vinnie's tougher-than-Vinnie secretary named Connie (played by Ana Reeder) finds her a job that Steph's certainly gonna love: bringing in Steph's first love, apparently former heart throb Joe Morelli (played by Jason O'Mara).  Morelli had taken Steph's virginity near the end of high school (Okay, parents take note, this is _not_ a film that would give good role-model advice, except in a back-handed, "for the love of God don't do this" sort of way to impressionable teens...), "one night on the floor of the bakery" (where she worked in her first job). As Steph recalled the story, she noted "I gave him all my canoli that night." (Connie recalls, with a sigh "Honey, a lot of girls gave him their canoli back in the day ...").  And of course Joe dumped Steph.

It turns out that Steph had already gotten back at Joe years ago, something that Joe's mother (played by Angela Pietropinto) never forgave her for: "I just hope you live long enough to have your only son run over by some crazy-a b..., breaking his leg in three places, because she's pissed off at my boy for some crazy-a reason ..."  And Joe also hasn't forgotten either, "I remember you, Steph, every time it rains ..." ;-).  Anyway, Joe's since become a cop and was recently accused of shooting a low-life drug dealer but then inexplicably skipped-out on $500,000 bail.  All of Trenton's police force, of course, knows exactly where he is and what he's doing, but no one's bringing him in.  Still, Vinnie's out $500,000 and if Steph brings him in, 10% of that, $50k, would be hers... 

So this then sets up the story.  Steph sets out to find and bring in former "love-'em-and-leave 'em Joe" to the police (who know where he is already anyway ...).  Joe of course doesn't want to be brought in.  And there's obviously "a story" about that shooting that Joe was involved-in as well ... Much ensues...

There are all sorts of characters that both Steph and the audience are introduced to along the way, often in a very stereotypical but also in a very funny fashion.  There's Vinnie's ace bounty hunter "Ranger" (played by Daniel Sunjata) who oozes such utter _coolness_ that he's like a refrigerator when he's in the room.  He takes Steph, who wants to be a bounty hunter but doesn't even have a gun (just pepper spray) under his wing.  There are two prostitutes who Steph befriends and become her "contacts."  Says Lula (played by Sherri Shepherd), the friendlier, more cooperative of the two streetwalkers: "We have a good-cop / bad-cop routine here, only we're hookers ...").  There's a young gay Asian man named John Cho (Leonardo Nam) who "saw everything that went down the night" that Joe took down the low-life drug dealer, but between his accent and mannerisms it's all but impossible to understand him.  Yet, despite the "challenges" that Steph faces ... to no one's surprise, everything gets resolved in the end ...

Obviously, this film not going to win any "Walton Family Legacy Awards" or anything like that.  The lexicon of the characters of One for the Money has far more in common with that of the Blagojevich family of recent memory than with the Waltons ;-).  So if language is an issue at home, this film is definitely not for you.  But it is a very, very funny film and would certainly make for a _great_ young-adult date movie as Valentine's Day approaches.  

Indeed, since seeing Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, I've often wondered how great it would be if a theme park like Universal City would create a section of its park where people could enter into the "Paris of the 1920s" created in that film to chat with the characters portrayed in that film.  Leaving One For the Money, I felt the same way about Stephanie Plum's Trenton, NJ created in this film.  What a blast it would be to spend an hour or two walking through the over-the-top world and larger than life characters portrayed here.  Honestly what great story and what _great_ imagination!  Congrats Janet Evanovich, the screenwriters of this film, and Katherine Heigl and the rest of the cast for taking it on!

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  1. wow. this is the first positive review i've read of this movie

  2. I'm stunned. I thought the movie was just great and it has a 0% (!) critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes while a 79% audience approval rating. Go figure. But I definitely stick with my review. I thought the film was hilarious, Katherine Heigl was just great and I do look forward to many other installments in this series ;-)