$9.99

$9.99 movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Animated
A claymation story about a group of people living in Sidney, looking for meaning in their lives.
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia
Director: Tatia Rosenthal
Running time: 1:18
Release: Opened Jun 26, 2009
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Editorial Review

How much is the meaning of life worth? Would you believe $9.99?

That's how much Dave (voice of Samuel Johnson) pays for a mail-order booklet that promises to reveal life's secrets -- all six of them -- in filmmaker Tatia Rosenthal's feature debut, "$9.99," a charming, poetic and at times surreal stop-motion animation co-written with Etgar Keret and based on the Israeli writer's short stories.

As Dave goes about his business -- he's unemployed, so he doesn't have much to do besides read the book -- his path intersects with those of a cast of characters centered on his Sydney apartment building: his father (Anthony LaPaglia) and brother (Ben Mendelsohn); a young couple undergoing a period of estrangement (Joel Edgerton and Claudia Karvan); a little boy saving up to buy a coveted toy (Jamie Katsamatsas); and a recently deceased homeless man (Geoffrey Rush), now a grouchy angel. There's also a sexy TV spokesmodel (Leeanna Walsman) and a lonely widower (Barry Otto).

With all those diversions, we never learn about the book's specific revelations. Still, in the course of "$9.99," a few eternal, if somewhat familiar-sounding, truths are revealed. We're all in this together. Love matters. Happiness is a choice (not to mention hard work). One of the most delightful metaphors is that of the little boy's piggy bank, which keeps on smiling whether it's full, empty or somewhere in between. In the end, the kid sets him free in the park, rather than bust him open for the cash.

That's it? Yeah, that's pretty much it. What were you expecting for 10 bucks?

-- Michael O'Sullivan (June 26, 2009)

Contains obscenity, implied violence, drug use, sex and nudity.