Eddie (David Wenham) by profession is a chemical engineer working for the Victorian Public Service testing soil for contamination in advance of development. His wife Tanya (Frances O'Connor) is an academic, and their six year old daughter Abby (Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik) is well loved. When he leaks a report to The Age, concerned about a certain project, he is fired and finds himself unemployed, with just three dollars to his name. It's at this moment that he meets his childhood sweetheart again, Amanada (Sarah Wynter), daughter of a wealthy developer. With Tanya tearfully fearful for their future, Eddie's natural optimism is tested to the limit as he turns a baffled eye on the world.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Three Dollars is such a strange film I am tempted to read the novel (only time constraints have held me back so far) to see if the tantalising episodes of Eddie's life captured here find some cohesion through the inner voice of literature. The cinematic arts of the film are beyond doubt: Robert Connolly is a natural master of film, and he makes this a fascinating work, filled with little treasures of observation, performance and technique.
The symbolism is obtuse, and three dollars and the three women in Eddie's life (wife, daughter, Amanda) are not readily identifiable as cross symbolic. For me, the film's theme is decency or integrity, something Eddie suffers for in various ways, from losing his job to helping others. Each time he goes to help someone, he pays the price. But in the case of his decency toward one homeless man (Robert Menzies in top form), he is repaid in kind.
The fact that it is this outcast of society who returns the good deed is perhaps one of the film's melancholy messages about our world. David Wenham brings his humanity to the role with a subtle and wide ranging performance in which he is required to show many facets of a morally upright man in a morally uncertain world. Frances O'Connor shows once again her range and her depth as Tanya, while the tiny, sweet little Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik is a terrific find.
Eddie's reflection on the coincidence that he meets Amanada every nine and a half years - and this is the fourth - is a more important to him for its obscurity, perhaps, than for any real meaning. Like wise for us, but the film is engaging and a pleasure to watch, especially the first half. First and foremost a character study, Three Dollars also brings together elements that could be identified (loosely) as romantic comedy, thriller and psychological drama.
In the end, Eddie comes through his trials with his integrity and decency providing the comfort that financial security could not. Family and self knowledge give him the strength and peace of mind he could never find elsewhere. On the way, he comes face to face with the brutality of the modern world - in every walk of life.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's been three years since Robert Connolly made his mark with his cutting drama The Bank, a story about corporate greed and manipulation. With Three Dollars, Connolly has collaborated with Elliot Perlman on his novel, a story about an ordinary man whose newly found conscience leads him to a better understanding of himself and his life.
David Wenham, who also starred in The Bank, is Eddie, a corporate surveyor who leads a tidy life with his wife Tanya (Frances O'Connor) and six year old sweetheart of a daughter Abby (Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik). He harbours a deep-seeded crush on his childhood sweetheart Amanda (Sarah Wynter), who pops back into his life with alarming regularly - every nine and a half years. Eddie is obviously counting, and the inconsequential meetings over the years are, have far greater significance to him, than to her.
The story starts when Eddie leaves his office building for the last time carrying all his possessions in three cardboard boxes. When a gust of wind sweeps all his papers high into the air, it's as though it is his life that has taken flight. In flashback, we get a glimpse inside his life - his meeting, courtship and marriage to neurotic Tanya, his infatuation with Amanda, his relationship with his family and his daughter. Pleas from strangers asking his help prey on his mind - a homeless man (Robert Menzies), a woman who falls at the train station, a man in a hospital bed and his wife's best friend Kate (Nicole Nabout). It's as though he is having a chronic attack of conscience, but life's load is considerably lighter, when he makes a few decisions at work and is prepared to take the consequences.
Wenham is excellent as always and it's good to see O'Connor back onscreen in a homespun story. Also appealing is angel-faced Hunt-Prokhovnik, whose presence is only diminished by too many glycerine tears. Connolly carefully controls the tone of the film, although the direction he has given to Alan John in creating the film's music, is more downbeat than I would have personally chosen. There's plenty to relate to in Three Dollars, and the moments, like domestic squabbles about whether dinner is a casserole or a stew, ring very true. But at nearly two hours, the film feels overlong, and is least successful in the scenes when Eddie finds himself on the street (in Tom White territory).
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DAVID WENHAM INTERVIEW
THREE DOLLARS (M)
CAST: David Wenham, Frances O'Connor, Sarah Wynter, Robert Menzies
PRODUCER: John Maynard
DIRECTOR: Robert Connolly
SCRIPT: Robert Connolly, Elliot Perlman (novel by Elliot Perlman)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Milani
EDITOR: Nick Meyers
MUSIC: Alan John
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Luigi Pittorino
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 15, 2006