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For Love or Money

(The Concierge, Barry Sonnenfeld, USA, 1993)


 


With its driving theme music and grand opening shots of Michael J. Fox making his way in the big city, For Love or Money seems as if it is going to be a feel-good fable of capitalist prosperity in the manner of a previous Fox vehicle, The Secret of My Success (1987).

This is only partly true, because the start of the film is a trick, eventually revealing its hero to be not yet a corporate high flyer but merely a hard working concierge who will go to any lengths to keep his hotel guests happy.

This is a modest film which makes a few smart, pleasurable moves in relation to recent popular successes. Specifically, one could say that it revises the main elements of Pretty Woman (1990) by crossing it with an older, far more corrosive comedy, Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960).

As in Pretty Woman, there is a suave, rich industrialist (Anthony Higgins) and a kept mistress (Gabrielle Anwar). As in The Apartment, the hapless hero (Fox) is an underling who must go on pampering his boss, even after realising that they are involved with the same woman.

The film works through this painful and somewhat perverse triangle in a satisfying, uplifting manner. Director Barry Sonnenfeld has toned down the flamboyant visual style he borrowed from the Coen brothers for his Addams Family films. Although he throws in a few well-placed, fancy angles, he appears content to let Fox command the frame and work his usual charming magic.

Amidst the glut of contemporary movies that strain to resuscitate the honest, homespun moral values of Frank Capra's classics, For Love or Money is one that manages to be convincing.

MORE Sonnenfeld: Get Shorty, Men in Black II

© Adrian Martin July 1994


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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