Review: Plum Out of a Job - Stephanie Plum and "One For the Money"
Female Recovery Agent
Author Janet Evanovich wrote One for the Money back in 1994, and has finally seen it produced for the movie industry after 18 years in 2012 - that's like the lifetime a child going away to college. Ms. Evanovich is still writing her Numbers Crime Series - Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly...Smokin' Seventeen, Explosive Eighteen, and we'll see how many more she can give the public. She's added other series to her repertoire and in-between her Stephanie Plum bounty hunter numbers, she writes up some fun novellas about Stephanie in other circumstances. Readership is large and each book hits the best seller lists of newspapers and popular reading journals.
The first book in the Numbers series hit me like a loaded dump truck that gouged an indelible memory. If the book had been rated by film standards it would have garnered a score somewhere between R and NC-17 from MPAA. However, the 2012 film is a fun PG-13 that junior high kids and high school students as well as adults can enjoy. It opens itself to a wider, younger, and in some cases, gentler audience, although some viewers would prefer to see an R-rated version with Angelina Jolie and that could work, too - Tomb Raider or Mrs. Smith brings in bail-skippers.
The book made me feel as if I'd been knifed and run over by a semi-truck when I read it, so it showed good impact value, but it wore me out. I'd dealt with the ghetto-fabulous ladies and crime-pushing boxers in adult education and the book reminded me of all that real-life drama. So, it felt like real-life on top of my real-life work. A bit too much reality.
Not checking before the screening I attended, I thought I'd heard it was an R rating from MPAA. When I found it PG-13 and full of laughs as well as gore, I was much happier with it. However, the lowered rating is one reason that big-time critics scored the film low in entertainment value. It is not as hard core as the book and they seem to be disappointed.
The opening weekend for One For the Money brought in $11.75 million ($40 million film budget). It was third in box office take behind The Grey (very interesting film) at $20 million ($25 million budget) and Underworld Awakening at $45.1 million ($70 million budget) over two weekends.
It seems that Money is not making back its budget very quickly, while Grey nearly had it in one weekend.
In light of all this, what might be wrong with One for the Money as a film? First, it's toned down form the book and the protagonist Stephanie is different. The book woman seems grittier and more robust to me. The screen version in Katherine Heigl is less that. The change from natural blonde to brown hair for the role helps, but Katherine's face is still too cute to be the book version. A makeup change would probably remedy that fact. The actress shows the personality change to a more determined bounty hunter in the second half of the film, after her friends have been killed, but it's not quite got grit enough. Still, I liked her portrayal overall. By film's end, she has endured a cram course in not only bounty hunting, but in life.
In the storyline, Stephanie loses a pink-collar job at Macy's and then loses her fancy car to repossession agents during a family dinner. Desperate, she turns to one of her many cousins for some short-term work. This cousin is Vinny Plum, one of the extended family living in Trenton, New Jersey, and many of them working in the ghetto portion of town.
Vinny is a bail bondsman and Stephanie consults with his assistant Connie on what cases she might be able to handle. It's an odd assortment of characters, including one old boyfriend from high school that is a cop on the run from Internal Affairs and an alleged wrongful shooting.
Jason O'Mara as the outlaw cop - Joe Morelli - turns in his best performance since that of the astronaut with the malfunctioning sleeper program on Life On Mars. He does a good job in Terra Nova, but the television series is not as interesting as expected. In a few scenes, Morelli and Stephanie Plum are too cute together, but their argument scenes are good - and there are lots of handcuffs.
A couple of other actors steal the show. Sherri Shepherd plays a prostitute, Lulu. She has the fortitude to wear short, tight, ill-fitting clothing and outrageous outfits in a role that is so funny the audience wanted to see more scenes featuring Shepherd, at the screening I attended. Sherri could almost spin off her own film and next Plum installments will feature Lulu in an expanded role at the bail bonds office. Together with her friend Jackie (Ryan Michelle Bathe) working the same ghetto corner, Sherri and Ryan making a comedy film together might be a little like the Hill Street Blues spinoff with Dennis Franz and Peter Jurassic.
Another scene-stealer is Debbie Reynolds as she portrays Stephanie's grandma as alternately outspoken and funny. Describing the character further gives away the film plot, but you should see the way she carves a turkey! Speaking of meat, a fish/meat market and a psycho boxer from the gym down the street figure prominently in this film. It's all a bit reminiscent of the Rocky franchise, but very dark. Neighborhood citizens die one by one as the audience wonders what's in the scrap barrels in the back of the meat market.
Another character we want to see in more scenes s Ranger, played by Daniel Sunjata. In the book he seemed to appear more frequently as a private detective/bounty hunter that teaches Stephanie how to shoot, track down and recover bail-skippers, and how to stay alive. He's part of a relationship triangle that will likely become more clear in Plum sequels. Already he seems more stable than Joe Morelli.
Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
Also stars: John Leguizamo, Debra Monk, and Nate Mooney.
The last I checked, only one reviewer out of three dozen liked the film in diatribes on Rotten Tomatoes. I still think the film is a good laugh with interesting characters. Some reviewers criticize the film for not being as harsh as the book, but I'm glad it's not. Other reviewers don't like the New Jersey caricatures. Those are a little over the top, but remind me of Mad TV, so I'm still happy.
The movie could be popular with kids, except for the barrel of milder obscenities in it, and I saw a lot of middle-aged and older women laughing in the audience, along with one twenty-something couple. Maybe grandmas and grand-kids can go together.