27 December 2005 | bob the moo
An interesting idea is condensed into a superficial and glossy affair that does nothing of value
David and Diana had been in love since college and married into a dream life where both are happy and able to pursue their dreams together. However they hit upon hard times when Diana's real estate work dries up and soon the pair decide that the only option available to them is a literal last throw of the dice with their last few thousand in Vegas. Despite an early winning streak they end up worse than they started. About to head off, Diana catches the eye of gambling billionaire John Gage who uses her as a lucky charm to win another million or so. Afterwards they get together to play some pool and Gage turns the conversation to the idea of what money can and can't buy specifically offering the Murphy's a cool $1,000,000 for one night spent with Diana.
When this film came out, the basic concept was enough to give it lots of free advertising by getting the nation asking itself "what would I do?" and all the hype over that allowed the producers of the film to avoid people finding out that there really wasn't much worth seeing passed this question. It should have been so different though, because it could have been a classic morality tale that went deep within the characters to see what is there. However it doesn't really do this and instead we are left with a rather vacuous affair that is given plenty of gloss but is essentially lacking in interesting things to say. The tensions between David and Diana never get beyond the level of strops and it never even makes an attempt at moral debate.
The fact that the characters are so thin doesn't help either. David and Diana are basic but the real failing is in Gage; he should be a rather sinister figure who plays with people like he plays with his money but instead he is just a twinkling eye and a sly smile in fact, he is Robert Redford. This is part of the problem because, although the material is weak, the cast cannot do anything to improve the situation. Redford is far too smooth and playboyish to really convince in the main role he cannot tap into any darkness or complexity and his failing is just one of the film's failings. Moore doesn't help either with a basic role where she doesn't seem to understand what her character is supposed to be feeling and therefore cannot convince in many of her scenes. Meanwhile Harrelson puffs and blows on cue but adds little. The support cast features turns from Platt, Cassel, Connelly and Thornton but aside from being recognisable faces they don't add much. Lyne directs with typical glossy style but he has no clue how to get deeper into the characters and story so instead just throws in lots of exploitative but empty scenes in the hope of somehow emotionally engaging his audience.
Overall this is not an awful film but it is so superficial and hollow that it is just bland and glossy. It only is made worse when you think of the potential it had to be a complex and insightful modern morally piece. Those happy with the substance and complexity of a slushy music video will enjoy it but the majority will leave it wondering what all the fuss was about and how such an interesting concept was so completely fouled up.