Where the Money Is, based on a story by Max Frye
In the archetypal, quintessential book on all things Hollywood, film making, actors, screenwriters and all those involved in the movie industry, Adventures in the Screen Trade, Paul Newman is one of the professionals, glorious actors, wonderful men that are described in the phenomenal work by William Goldman, who has worked with this deity on the set of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – for which the writer has won one of his two Oscars- and other features.
Paul Newman had his first chance to glory- and he took it- when another phenomenon, Montgomery Clift had passed on the chance of working on Somebody Up There Loves Me- and he did the same for On the Waterfront, launching the career of Marlon Brando and then with his refusal of East of Eden, gave audiences the brief opportunity to enjoy James Dean.
From the aforementioned classic, we learn that Paul Newman was not just a very accomplished actor, doing his fair share and delivering his lines with aplomb and talent, but interested in the other colleagues and a team player, waiting on the set to give the lines to a fellow actor, which is very unusual.
Adventures in the Screen Trade gives the examples of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford- among others, including Al Pacino- who have more than misbehaved, the former when he acted macho and absurd on the matter of a flashlight and then made Lawrence Olivier suffer- literally- on the set of Marathon Man, and the latter showing an ugly character twice, once after the release of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and the second while preparing for All The President’s Men- the second Academy Award for the brilliant William Goldman.
In Where the Money Is, Paul Newman has one of his last roles, as a legendary bank robber called Henry Manning, who has had a stroke while in prison, was sent to a retirement home where he plays for time and acts- an acting role within the acting role- the part of a vegetable, in order to escape prison.
This is where he meets nurse Carol MacKay played by the very good Linda Fiorentino, a young, attractive woman, who, although popular, seems to be unsatisfied with where her life is going, which is towards an unremarkable, modest existence with her husband Wayne MacKay.
The latter used to be a very successful football player, in school only alas, but now he is not offering his spouse the excitement she longs for, he appears to be less gifted in the intellectual domain and anticipating a little, his values and principles ultimately amount to little, if anything.
Clever Carol thinks there is more than meets the eye in the case of the supposedly helpless Henry, perhaps she also has an intuition and then uses the Thin Slicing Theory explained in the archetypal, classic Psychology masterpiece, Blink- The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by the genius Malcolm Gladwell.
When she takes Henry Manning out with her husband, she is trying to push him to confess- talk, which he claims he does not do anymore – and admit this is all an act and he did not fool her, if he had convinced everybody else that he has no control over his body anymore.
Before this trip in the country, near the canal, the woman had even tried lap dancing to see if there is a reaction, somewhat in the manner of the dancer in Mel Brooks’ History of the World, where a huge tongue comes out of the mouth of the fake eunuch when he sees the erotic dance.
When she sees there is no blink from the retired bank robber, Carol starts pushing his wheelchair towards the water, meanwhile continuing with her threats and saying that she will push him into the water, all the way to the edge where…she throws the potentially innocent, disabled man on to his death.
Her husband jumps into the water, although he is some distance from the place of the incident- attempted murder? What will the police qualify it as? - and the women is starting to take clothes off, when the wet patient is slowly starting to climb the stairs out of the water.
He is annoyed, angry and puzzled, asking the nurse what is wrong with her and where is that professional need to care for the patients – instead of throwing them to their final departure- and her husband as well- are you going to turn me in? Which attracts a quick response- are you calling me a rat?
Later on, Henry will explain how they have access to so many books in prison, from Buddhist philosophy, to how to control your mind and he became able to control his reactions to the point where he enjoyed it when a bug would come on his face and stop half way into his nostril and his mouth, happy to have a guard witness this extreme scene and convince him of his absolute immobility and paralysis.
Henry and Carol get very close together- there seems to be a better compatibility between them, confirmed by later developments, than between the wife and her husband- and they plan a robbery, for which she recommends the contribution of her spouse.
Henry is brilliant, he has a self-possessed style that makes him face policemen in a supermarket and even give them a story of his religious zealotry, to make them want to Get Rid of him, instead of the opposite, but the third partner had been a terrible choice and he proves to be more than a liability, when they tie up guards and he leaves behind his cutter and therefore the prisoners make an early escape, compromising part of the heist and then more.
It is surprising to see that this good film has a Metascore of only 49 and, even if this is not Goodfellas or the Godfather, I or II, it is still a notable achievement and, like always, Paul Newman is an exquisite pleasure to watch, his company, Linda Fiorentino offers a performance worthy of her gigantic partner.