Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wretchedly Rich

For Christmas, a friend gave me David Bentley Hart’s new precisely literal translation of the New Testament, about which I will have more to say at some later date. I mention it today because one of Hart’s apparent aims is to highlight how little resemblance he sees between the first Christians (to whom the New Testament was originally addressed) and subsequent generations of Christians “completely comfortable with material possessions.” Hart highlights how the New Testament, as he understands it, “condemns personal wealth not merely as a moral danger, but as an intrinsic evil.”

The evil which wealth does and its moral danger to its owners are all blatantly on display in the movie All the Money in the World, based on John Pearson's 1995 aptly named book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. (Actually, I think Painfully Rich would have made an even better title for the film, although All the Money in the World certainly makes the same suggestion. Better yet, with its alliteration, I prefer my own title Wretchedly Rich) The film tells the story of fantastically wealthy J. Paul Getty's reluctance to respond to the ransom demands of a group of Mafia kidnappers who abducted his grandson John Paul Getty III in Rome in 1973 (and eventually famously cut off his ear).

For those of us who remember that time and that incident, the movie may bring back other recollections of other violent events that likewise characterized that particularly troubled period. On screen, however, the violence of that time, while starkly present, recedes somewhat, and allows the film to focus on the terrible human tragedy that was the life and legacy of one famously greedy man and the harm his greed inflicted on others. Especially in this holiday season, when out culture revels in its acquisitiveness and greed, the lesson is even more especially poignant.

The fact that we know the outcome in advance may disappoint those seeking more crime-thriller suspense. Still It is a really great movie, starring Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty, Michelle Williams as his daughter-in-law Gail Harris, Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III, Getty's unfortunate grandson, and Mark Wahlberg as Fletcher Chase, a former CIA operative in Getty's employ who becomes Gail's adviser in assisting her to recover her son.

No comments:

Post a Comment