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:: $9.99

Maybe it’s because ‘$9.99’ has surfaced in the same year as ‘Mary And Max’ or maybe it’s because with such an amazing cast I was expecting so much more but ‘$9.99’ came across as a bit of a disappointment. While the interesting, well-developed characters are there, the story falls away into something just a little too strange for this reviewer. If there was a message in there somewhere it was certainly lost on me.

Based on the short stories of Etgar Keret ‘$9.99’ tells the story of the residents that call a Sydney apartment building home. The main family is the Peck family. The father, Jim (voiced by Anthony LaPaglia) becomes disturbed after witnessing the death of a homeless man/Angel (Geoffrey Rush). His eldest son Lenny (Ben Mendelsohn) works as repo man while his younger son Dave (Samuel Johnson) is unemployed and is searching for the meaning of life. Lenny is also searching for something and seems to find it in the bed of super-model, Tanita (Leeanna Walsman). Other residents include the heartbroken, Ron (Joel Edgerton) who in the absence of fiancée, Michelle (Claudia Karvan) creates some imaginary friends, a lonely old man, Albert (Barry Otto) and Zack (Jamie Katsamatsas), a little boy who uses a piggy bank to save up for a soccer game.

Director, Tatia Rosenthal does an amazing job bringing these characters to life, and while the backgrounds and surrounds of the figurines look amazing, the unusual style of clay-mation does take a little while to get used to. Likewise Rosenthal does an amazing job creating these characters but then you feel really disappointed as it seems the characters are used all that well in a storyline that just becomes more and more bizarre. In fact at the end of the film I felt a great sense of disappointment. Too many of the characters seemed not have their stories end in a satisfying way, while with others you are simply left thinking ‘what the???’. Perhaps the most annoying character is the Angel played by Geoffrey Rush, although here isn’t the best time to say why as it would give away a huge chunk of the story.

The one character brilliantly explored is that of Dave Peck. I found myself eagerly waiting for each scene that his character was in. He was the one character that I felt sympathy for while the familiar voice of Samuel Johnson helps make this character even more loved by Australian audiences.

If ‘$9.99’ set out to explore the meaning of life it failed badly. I left the screening disappointed as I felt the film could have been so much more. The great characters are let down by a bizarre storyline that is guaranteed to leave it’s audience depessed.