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Where the Money Is

Review by David Luty
Posted 14 April 2000

Directed by Marek Kanievska 

Starring Paul Newman, 
Linda Fiorentino, and Dermot Mulroney

Written by E. Max Frye

You'd be hard pressed to find an actor who's aged more gracefully than  Paul Newman, with that aura of utter comfort and confidence along with the  magical, mischievous glint still bouncing off his eyes. He's so charismatic  that his presence alone is almost enough, which is about all he's able to  bring to Where the Money Is, a movie as banal as its name. He plays aging  convict Henry Manning, ex-bank-robber extraordinaire who's found a way to  escape prison by pretending he belongs in another. Having mastered the act  of faking a stroke, and with the prison medical ward overstuffed, he's been  moved to a nursing home out in the sticks, where he meets Carol Ann McKay  (Linda Fiorentino). She's his nurse, and she becomes driven by the  conviction that the vegetable sitting in front of her is no veggie at all.  Before you know it, she's trying to convince Manning that she and her husband  (and ex-prom king) Wayne (Dermot Mulroney) should help him pull off one last  bank heist.

Newman, now in his mid-seventies, was most likely driven by the chance  to play an outlaw again, but he should have thought to ask where the  character was. Because the movie is really about Carol and her desperate  need to do something, anything, to spice up her now humdrum life, Manning is  not so much a human being as he is an attitude, an emblem of Carol's lost  youth and a nostalgic endorsement of wayward behavior. The problem with this  notion is that Newman is far too vibrant a presence to be playing a symbol,  never mind one of lost youth. When his presence isn't being squandered  during his catatonic wheelchair scenes, the movie threatens to come alive  whenever he enters the frame (as all movies do), but it never rises above,  because Manning as a character has nowhere to go.

So the movie fails Newman, but it ultimately fails its own story as  well. Carol's search for fulfillment is an oft-told tale, and Where the  Money Is has nothing new to say on the matter. Fiorentino also happens to be  the wrong person to flesh it out, since she isn't able to get through her  hardened personality to properly transmit the vulnerable yearning the  character requires. Director Marek Kanievska (whose last film was Less Than  Zero in 1987) slaps lyrically appropriate but musically jarring tunes by The  Cars in a lost attempt at establishing a consistent tone, and the script  passes up not one, but two possible endings that could have added some  substance to the proceedings, instead choosing to go the more mundane (in  movie terms) route. Where the Money Is turns out to be a weightless,  forgettable trifle, and considering they had Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy  territory, that should be a punishable offense. 

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