Other People's Money
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Danny DeVito portrays the odious Lawrence Garfield, affectionately christened with the salubrious sobriquet "Larry The Liquidator." Garfield loves one thing better than his beloved doughnut pastries: woefully undervalued companies. When his computer screen filters out the latest hot prospect, New England Wire & Cable, his shark-like senses smell the blood immediately and he sets out for a meeting with its owner, Andrew Jorgenson, played to great curmudgeonly effect by Gregory Peck.
Jorgenson is a fatherly figure to his workers, respected and revered almost to the point of deification, one would imagine. When Garfield points out that his company's stock price is out of whack in relation to its book value, Jorgenson is staunch in his reply: get out, and take your Wall-Street greed with you. But everyone knows that the little guy isn't going to be cowed so easily; he's as feisty and fanatic as he is sly and devious. They know he'll find a way to bulldoze over Jorgenson and his twenty percent ownership.Read more ›
The crescendo to the movie comes in the two speeches before the company shareholders. The speeches punctuate what is more the reality in today's world. Corporate take-overs and liquidations are not simply a bunch of greedy business people enriching themselves at everyone else's expense. From an economic point of view New England Wire and Cable should be shut down. It's in a business that is outmoded by new technologies and its assets are worth more sold off for some other purpose. Rationally it makes no economic sense to continue such a business. The money from selling this failing business can be invested in a business that is viable and growing - this will help create new jobs and add growth to the economy. Of course the people that have worked at New England wire and cable will lose their jobs and Peck will lose his business.
What's refreshing about the movie is the writer didn't set up a straw man to argue either point view. Both sides present intelligent arguments from believable characters. The movie challenges us that what is rational is not always what feels good. An efficient and productive economy is one that has the ability to change, but there are costs - people get displaced.
Where the script fell short and where many in our society lose perspective is that while businesses may die out people are flexible. One's skills can be revamped and applied to more productive pursuits. Instead, however, the scriptwriters concoct a not so believable happy ending. Still, though Other People's Money is probably one of the most honest movies to come out of Hollywood on the topic of capitalism.
The fine script, based on a play by Jerry Sterner, and directed by the consummate professional, Norman Jewison, is studded with cynical Wall Street wisdom, not the least of which is, it is always nice to play with "other people's money" (gambler's lingo for being ahead of the game). Naturally this Hollywood presentation is a little shallow, but what a pleasant fantasy for short, old, balding day traders on a holiday.
Of course there is the delicate question of how to play "Danny Devito gets Penelope Ann Miller." Are we going to see him pull her into his arms and kiss her, thereby sweeping her off her feet? I don't think so. However, confidence (and mass bucks) are very sexy, and so there is a certain plausibility to this amusing romantic comedy.
While watching I was reminded that Miller is one of the great beauties of the contemporary screen, but I was saddened to realize how short her span.... Alas. One of the wonderful things about cinema, though, is that she may be young forever, or at least until the deterioration of celluloid.
Gregory Peck delivers a great performance as an altruistic company owner. Devito is shrewd and irreverant as the corporate raider. The movie gives each of them plenty of screen time to present his argument, and you are the judge.
The twist to it all is that the lovely daughter (Penelope Ann Miller) of the company owner is a lawyer charged with using any legal means of protecting the company from DeVito. And DeVito is trying to win both her heart AND the company. He's the model of ambition.
The dialogue often sparkles with unexpected surprises: "I hate it when people ask me if they can be frank with me. It makes me wonder about what they are the rest of the time."
And BOTH the final speeches are masterpieces, clearly presenting both sides of the essential moral issue.
As a comedy, it may not completely satisfy. But as a morality play, it satisfies completely. Each time I see it, I understand more.
Most recent customer reviews
I had it, still have it, on a VHS tape, but I needed it on a DVD. Found it on Amazon and bought it with the usual great service. I enjoy it just as much as I ever did. Thank you.Published 5 months ago by Mitzi-Lynne Morgan
This is one of my favorite movies. The plot is excellent and it's a great comedy. Danny DeVito suits that role perfect. I wish it was available on DVD.Published on Jan. 8 2002
A cute little romantic comedy, which DeVito surprisingly carries off very well as a male lead. The real surprise, however, is the honesty in the writing -- instead of the usual... Read morePublished on Dec 29 2001 by Roger Garcia
One of my favorite movies. My only complaint is that the romantic female lead is too young for Danny DeVito -- you're never on his side in his quest for her. Read morePublished on July 7 2001 by tzefirah
This is a great film for DeVito fans, but a better film for people who want a less than perfect romantic comedy. Read morePublished on June 18 2001 by Shadow Moon
Very entertaining but I mainly watched for Penelope Ann Miller. That scene where she enters Danny De Vito's office and the camera goes up from her feet to her beautiful face and... Read morePublished on June 12 1999
Not a bad movie -- not great, but better than average until the shareholder's meeting at the end. However, the speech that Larry the Liquidator (Danny DeVito) gives at the meeting... Read morePublished on March 3 1999 by George M. Regnery