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The price of money

Christopher Plummer in ‘All the Money in the World’ (Sony Pictures)


The price of money

All the Money in the World depicts the life of billionaire J. Paul Getty and the sorrowful consequences of greed

If your teenage grandson was kidnapped, how much money would you be willing to pay to get him back alive? For J. Paul Getty, once the richest private citizen in the world, the answer was nothing. To the demanded ransom—$17 million—Getty snorted, “I have 14 grandchildren, and if I pay one penny now, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.” Getty gained more fame for that cold stinginess than for his immense wealth.

All the Money in the World tells the true story of the 1973 kidnapping, but the film is really about Getty (a magnetic Christopher Plummer). With dark humor the film depicts Getty as a stinking-rich billionaire who obsessively watches the stock market, plays chess against himself, and washes his own clothes in hotels because he is too cheap to pay $10 for laundry service.

“Everything has a price,” the movie’s billionaire tells his grandson (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher). “Everything in life is coming to grips with what it is.” Then his grandson disappears, and by refusing to pay the ransom the senior Getty makes clear to the public his value of his grandson’s life. (He later agrees to pay just $2.2 million, the maximum tax-deductible amount.) The film doesn’t dig much into what kind of effect that had on the younger Getty (in real life, his subsequent drug and alcohol addiction left him a partially blind quadriplegic), but it does show how it affected the Getty patriarch, whom we see dying alone while clutching a rare Madonna-and-Child painting for which he paid $1.7 million. “I like things,” he says at one point. “They are exactly what they appear to be.”

The film is suspenseful and riveting and includes a gruesome ear-slicing scene that earns the movie an R rating (along with foul language and drug content). But it’s foremost a tragedy about a man with all the money in the world who destroyed himself and his family because of it.


  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sun, 01/07/2018 06:45 am

    Thank you for the review.  I know for certain I will not go see this one.  The content (ear slicing) is not what I consider entertainment.  Also much of the money that goes into the movie industry goes to people who are actively trying to destroy our system of government.  The war on decency is fought on many levels and celebrities are usually not much help. I try not to support them.    

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sun, 01/07/2018 02:24 pm

    A wise friend of mine said more than once, "Don't should on me!"

    It is easy to point our fingers at the Rich, and J. P. Getty may have had a heart of stone.  He certainly had difficulty with his relationships.  On the other hand, I might feel the same way if I were surrounded by leeches.  The family apparently at first thought that the ransom demand was a ploy by the grandson to extract funds from his grandfather.  Besides, how many of us scream and holler whenever someone "rewards" kidnappers?  Mr. Getty may have had concerns that he would start an open season on his heirs if he were to accede too quickly to the demands.

    This is not to say that J. P. Getty did not worship mammon.  He may have been more concerned about his wallet than his heirs.  I do think it ironic that he would purchase gobs of real estate and tangible property to fill it, and not just hand over the money for his grandson.  I simply believe that we should not swiftly judge rich people for not doing certain things that we think they ought to do just because they can afford to do them.

  • Greg Mangrum's picture
    Greg Mangrum
    Posted: Sun, 01/07/2018 02:43 pm

    Christopher Plummer is a much better choice to play J. Paul Getty than Kevin Spacey.