All Or Nothing Movie Review

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I've received a lot of criticism for bashing Jennifer Aniston's new flick The Good Girl. Although I admit my complaints were drawn from an intentionally drowsy style and tedious writing, I strongly believe that no matter how purposefully uneventful a character's life, the movie is still responsible for making the character interesting to watch for two hours--a feat The Good Girl did not accomplish.

All or Nothing earns exactly the same complaints for exactly the same reasons, except instead of one central character there are dozens--so many that the press notes contain an entire list of "Who's Who" so reviewers won't get confused. I suppose the list did help me define each character's role in the story, but the problem isn't that there are too many characters, but that I didn't care about any of them!

As the movie opens, a depressing mood quickly develops as Rachel (Alison Garland) woefully mops the hallway floors of a quiet old folks' home. She's the unhappy daughter of Phil (Timothy Spall), a discontent cabdriver, and Penny (Lesley Manville), a discontent supermarket cashier. Their unemployed, obese son, Roy (James Corden), wastes most of his time snacking and watching television. The family spends little time socializing or interacting; when Penny sorrowfully asks Rachel if she would like to take a walk with her after dinner, she denies without hesitation.

All or Nothing is the story of an extended weekend in the uneventful lives of this family and several other unhappy individuals. Nothing more. I'm glad I wasn't in charge of making this film's trailer--there's nothing here to draw the attention of any conscious audience member.

Mike Leigh develops an effective atmosphere, introducing each location with stirring curiosity; he establishes the settings not by revealing them outright, but by simply implying them. He introduces a supermarket by cutting straight to a medium angle on two working cashiers who chat while loading grocery; he portrays a taxicab with a medium-close up of the driver and a passenger in the back seat. His technique is remarkably effective.

Unfortunately, the talented filmmaking leads nowhere. The characters do nothing but smoke, eat, argue, drink, argue, fight some more, and drive around. Leigh may have intended to portray tedious lifestyles here, but he doesn't go anywhere with them. The lives of the characters from Requiem for a Dream began positively but quickly spiraled downward so the audience could see a silver lining around the clouds nearby. A movie cannot be tragic if there is no positive alternative--it's just uneventful hokum.

The movie shares much with Leigh's previous work, especially the themes of loneliness and depravity in his excellent film Secrets & Lies. Unlike that movie, however, All or Nothing lacks hope. For any tragedy to work, there must be potential for a better future. Aniston did not have one in The Good Girl, therefore, there was no point to the movie, and if there was a point, it certainly wasn't worth the trip to arrive there. The same goes from All or Nothing.

At the very end of this movie, when a glimmer of inspiration finally appears, it becomes clear that this story is simply told the wrong way around. If it had begun with flashes of hope and the movie had followed the characters as they began to lose sight of it, the audience would have felt for them. But neither All or Nothing nor The Good Girl understands; both films crash and burn. Which film is worse? That's a tough call. If I absolutely had to watch either The Good Girl or All or Nothing again...gosh, I don't know. I only hope that I never have to make that decision.

Soup's on!

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All Or Nothing Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 2002


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