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Happiness in all its forms: $9.99

To begin with, let me say that I’m not a huge fan of the animated film oeuvre. I like some, sure, but in general, it’s not my first choice. $9.99, however, is a stop-motion animated film that charmed me.

$9.99 is a thoroughly Australian film. Well, sort of. It has an Israeli director, Tatia Rosenthal, and writer, Etgar Keret. But the producer and the entire cast are Australian! And it’s set in Sydney! So let’s just call it Australian.

A surreal ensemble piece set in a suburban apartment block, $9.99 is about the interaction between those who dwell within and outside of it. Its cast of heavy hitters includes Geoffrey Rush as both a bum and an angel, a character who is entertaining and charmingly grouchy. Anthony LaPaglia is a lonely middle-aged man struggling with his sons, played by Samuel Johnson (Secret Life of Us – remember that?) and Ben Mendelsohn (Love My Way along with most “young adult” films made in Australia during the early 90’s). Joel Edgerton and Claudia Karvan are lovers failing to understand each other.

While the ensemble does a decent job and Rush is excellent, much of the voice acting falls a little flat, although that may not be an acting problem so much as a “puppet” problem. (Is that what we’re supposed to call them? I don’t know but that’s what I’m going to call them). I suppose there are a few problems with the puppets. Imagine a stiff-botox-ish face with flotation-device lips – ala Lisa Rinna – that open and close like a ravenous goldfish. It’s a little distracting.

But please, let’s put that aside. With just the right amount of quirkiness tempered by thoughtfulness, warmth and perceptiveness, the story is enchanting, funny and thought-provoking. It’s about the finding of happiness in its many forms, be it a man who swims like a dolphin or a woman whose fantasy is a man with no bones. Happiness is never quite where you expect to find it.

words: Kristen Hodges


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