Misplaced Priorities and Greed Mark Mad Money
- 2008 18 Jan
DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: January 18, 2008
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material, language and brief drug references)
Run Time: 104 min.
Director: Callie Khouri
Actors: Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes, Ted Danson, Adam Rothenberg, Roger R. Cross
If we’ve learned anything from the successful Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen franchise, it’s that crime actually does pay—and particularly well if the job is executed just right. And while the ladies leading the heist in Mad Money may not have the flash or hi-fi gadgetry that George Clooney’s and Brad Pitt’s characters utilize in Ocean’s, it’s clear they’re having just as much fun beating the system.
Unlike the nearly consequence-free environment of Ocean’s, (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, after all), the moral implications of a life in crime are explored in Mad Money. As Bridget Cardigan (Diane Keaton), Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah) and Jackie Truman (Katie Holmes) learn before long, the pervasive fear of getting caught ultimately makes theft a less-than-desirable career choice. Yet in the spirit of good old-fashioned greed, it’s not easy to stop once you’ve been successful. And therein lies the quandary.
The story begins with Bridget, a pampered, well-dressed suburbanite who hasn’t worked in years. Forced to keep up appearances after her financial analyst husband (Ted Danson) was downsized, Bridget tries to dream up a way to maintain her charmed life and pay almost $300,000 they’ve accumulated in debt to do so. Opting for the traditional route of finding a job at first, Bridget’s degree in Comparative Literature doesn’t exactly do her any favors, so she’s stuck working as a cleaning woman (quelle horreur!) at the Kansas City Federal Reserve.
Then one day as Bridget looks up at a security monitor, the proverbial light bulb switches on as she sees pile after pile of currency just begging to be spent. After all, this is the grungy ol’ cash being phased out of the system, so would anyone really miss it? And technically since the money no longer exists, would it even be wrong to grab a little for yourself? And with that, Bridget has the skeleton for the seemingly perfect, virtually untraceable, victimless crime.
Now all Bridget needs are a couple of accomplices to help with logistics. Cue Nina, a tough-talking, been-there-seen-that single mom who wants nothing but the best for her two sons. After initially rejecting Bridget’s “crazy” offer to have an equal share of the profits in exchange for her help, Nina holds fast to her convictions. As been proven again and again, however, everyone has his/her price. And when Bridget tempts her with private school brochures that could provide better educational opportunities for Nina’s sons, well, Nina caves in.
The remaining piece of the puzzle comes into play with Jackie, a ditzy, overly-medicated money cart pusher who’s rarely spotted without her headphones. Since Jackie doesn’t have much in the way of excitement in her life, she’s a shoo-in, even when Nina tries to convince her to take a little time to think it over.
Much to these ladies’ delight, the plan goes off without a hitch. Again and again and again. Before long, they all have more than enough money to enjoy and pay off their debts, which was when they were supposed to quit. Or at least that’s what Nina says they agreed on. But like the Vegas blackjack player who is up a few hundred in chips, greed inevitably sets in, and Bridget justifies her need for more cash because she’s an “American.”
And that’s when a frivolous, surprisingly funny comedy like Mad Money actually has some relevancy because that’s the unfortunate mentality that so many of us embrace. Rather than being happy with what we’ve got, the pursuit of happiness isn’t complete without always wanting more—no matter what we have to forsake to get it. While most of us probably wouldn’t resort to stealing from the government, it reminded me of something Bridget said in the beginning: “Anyone is capable of anything with the right motivation.”
Now that’s a little scary, isn’t it?
- Drugs/Alcohol: There are several references to what Jackie’s “on” because she’s so clearly in her own world. When going over the details of the heist, Bridget, Nina and Jackie meet at a bar for drinks.
- Language/Profanity: There are a smattering of standard-issue profanities, including instances of the Lord’s name taken in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: While there’s no actual sex scenes, that’s clearly where Nina and Barry are headed in one particular scene in a closet. Plus, Nina has a penchant for wearing cleavage-revealing shirts that causes much discussion by her male co-workers. When the ladies steal the money, they stuff it down their underwear, which are shown in one scene. Jackie’s husband’s bare bottom is shown for laughs in one scene.
- Violence: Only of the comic variety.