Monday, October 14, 2013

Movie #218: Greedy

Greedy is a 1994 comedy starring Kirk Douglas, Michael J. Fox, Nancy Travis, Phil Hartman, and a whole bunch of other people.

Joe McTeague (Dougls) is old, cantankerous, filthy rich, and surrounded by people looking to get their hands on his money. His niece and nephews (Colleen Camp, Ed Bagley, Jr., Phil Hartman, and Jere Burns) and their respective spouses have long ago abandoned any facade of decency or self-respect. Now they're down to hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on each other and tearing the others down in front of the old man, all in some blind hope that he'll die and leave them his money. And yet, they meet behind closed doors to try and figure out how to make the best of the situation - they want the money to stay in the family.

When Joe gets a "nurse" (Olivia d'Abo), they all figure that she's going to marry him and, to quote Burns, "screw him six feet into the ground." They decide to find their youngest cousin, Danny (Fox), whom Joe loved the most, and see if he can help in some way.

Danny, meanwhile, is going through his own issues - he's a pro bowler, but not an especially good one, and his career is winding down. He wants to marry his successful career-driven girlfriend (Travis), but is intimidated by the notion that she'll always make more money than he would. When his cousins approach him, he goes back, meets Joe, and immediately gets sucked in to the same round-and-round of manipulation and lies that Joe puts on everyone.

Michelle hated this movie because everyone's horrible. I disagree. I think that no one is horrible for the sake of it, but all of the characters (except Travis, and even she wibbles a little) gets sucked in by the promise of easy money. Bob Balaban plays one of the cousins' spouses (Camp's, obviously, since this movie was before gay people existed in mainstream movies), and points out that Joe tempts people into betraying their ethics little by little. That's more or less what happens with Danny - his father, recognizing what was happening, left the family and its squabbles, and Danny initially (and eventually) has the character to stay above it, too.

But I think the performances are pretty nuanced, actually. There's a scene where the four cousins confront d'Abo, and Hartman (who brilliantly plays the worst cousin, Frank) basically threatens her. It's clear that the cousins hadn't discussed this ahead of time, and the three others each exhibit reactions that are subtle, but distinct. Likewise, watching Douglas' performance after you've seen the movie once, you can pick out which scenes Joe is acting for his family, and which ones he's genuinely touched or afraid.

I think it's an underrated movie, actually.

My grade:B+
Rewatch value: Medium, if I upgrade it to DVD

Next up: The Green Hornet