One for the Money starring Katherine Heigl is based on the much beloved Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. According to Evanovich the series has been under movie contract for a long time and yet has only just been made. To give you an idea of how long, most of the actors that Evanovich had envisaged in the movie are now too old for the roles.
I have to confess, I have had quite mixed feelings about the movie. Rarely do movies live up to the promise of the books. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the movie makers. While popular (just look at this years Oscars list), adaptations are hard to do. Books have many layers to a story and it is hard to represent this just as it is hard to show the thought processes of the characters which often tell you the most about them rather than just the things they do.
This series in particular I didn’t have high hopes for. I listen to the books as audiobooks and to me the characters already sound a particular way – the way that the very talented Lorelei King has portrayed them. Given that the actors would obviously not sound anything like I was used to I had to go in prepared for it to be different. Some of the casting choices I was just not convinced about. All in all, I went in preparing to be disappointed.
Which I was and was not.
For a girl who has never been to Jersey and whose only exposure to that area is from shows like Jersey Shore and (both of which I refuse to watch) it was really interesting to see how it was portrayed. It certainly wasn’t like how I saw it my head but then again nothing ever is.
Overall the movie hits the main points of the book. The storyline is consistent with only some smaller changes to keep things moving – a couple of characters combined into one, scenes reduced. You know the normal sorts of things. That made me happy as I felt no key elements of the original story had been compromised.
I think for me where it fell down was in a couple of “personality” problems. There were some of the elements that were missed. Ranger and Stephanie for example. In the books he makes her weak at the knees pretty much from the start. He makes it clear he thinks she’s cute from the start. The movie Ranger is forever having to “bounce” (book Ranger never bounced anywhere, he would just melt into the shadows like Batman). He treats Stephanie like she’s a job and is always happy to be heading off. Only once did he call her Babe but not in that throaty seductive way we are used to. The hint of the love triangle that is such an important part of the books was completely lost.
Here’s my cut on the key players:
Stephanie – Katherine Heigl. Actually I was pleasantly surprised by Heigl as Stephanie. I’ve been a fan since her RoswelOther than her accent slipping from time to time (yes even a non-American picked that up) her overall performance was fun and light. Her wardrobe was a bit more modern that book Stephanie’s (no Doc Martins). I also liked that she tried to show Stephanie’s thought processes through facial expression. The downside to Heigl was that you never really bought that she had no idea what she was doing. Book Stephanie usually got through with a bit of nouse and a lot of luck. Also there was no Ranger chemistry.
Morelli – Jason O’Mara – I thought O’Mara was excellent casting. He looks almost exactly how I picture Morelli and he has the right attitude. He and Heigl had some pretty good chemistry but I never felt like they had the opportunity to show it off. Morelli was always pretty up front with his teasing attraction to her but this performance lacked that. I’m not sure if that was O’Mara or the script but if it had been there, it would have taken the movie up several notches.
Ranger – Daniel Sunjata – Ranger was one of my big disappointments. Daniel Sunjata was not a bad casting choice, he certainly looks the part and he’s pretty sexy. Sadly we never got to see that. Yes we saw the badass but there was never any chemistry at all with Plum. In fact he seemed almost disinterested or that she was amusing like a bug in a jar. Again I’m not sure if it was the performance or the way the role was written. To me Ranger always moves like smoke – he never “bounced” (what was with him always saying he had to “bounce”). We never got that from Sunjata. Perhaps the role wasn’t written that way for him. Perhaps it’s just that I always saw the creamy goodness that is Benjamin Bratt as Ranger or that he only once called her “Babe” and not in the breathy way Lorelei King’s Ranger does (you know the way only a really sexy man can so that you forget to breathe).
Lula – Sherri Shepherd – Lula was always the big questions mark for me. I had never really been a fan of Sherri Shepherd and I wasn’t convinced that this short woman with the high voice would live up to the picture of Lula that Lorelei King and Evanovich has created for me (just the deeper voice was hard to get past), a picture that usually included Queen Latifah. Still, Shepherd was a pleasant surprise. Despite my fears she did not try too hard in the role rather letting herself encompass the role in her own way. She was trashy in the way Lula is without being too over the top.
Grandma Mazur – Debbie Reynolds – Grandma Mazur was probably my biggest disappointment. I do understand why they cast Reynolds and she is a fine comedic actress but not only did she not look the part of the wizened old woman but she just didn’t stand out in any way. Other than the shooting of the chicken “in the gumpy”, a scene that felt slightly forced, Reynolds wasn’t really given anything else to do. With Grandma Mazur you always feel like she is on the verge of doing something wildly inappropriate yet Reynolds always felt like she was trying to be slightly amusing. I am not the only fan who wants to be Grandma Mazur when she grows up but not if it’s Reynolds interpretation.
Other good casting –
- Leguizamo was well cast as Jimmy Alpha and played the role in his usual style.
- Annie Parisse as Mary Lou, Stephanie’s best friend, had a bigger role in the film that she has in the book but it made sense to give Stephanie a way to see what’s going on. I felt it worked very well.
- John Cho as the drug addled witness was one of my favourite smaller roles. I enjoy most of Cho’s performances
- Fisher Stevens as Morty Beyers. This was a small but brilliant role. Stevens is suitably slimey and self serving. You just can’t feel too sorry when he curses out God and then gets completely blown up.
- Adam Paul – Bernie Kuntz – errr yep. yuk. The character, not the actor.
The jury is still out –
- Ana Reeder – Connie – not at all what I expected, though I’m not sure why. I think I expected her to be curvier. Actually while she was unexpected her performance wasn’t bad.
- Patrick Fletcher – Vinnie Plum – I can see why Fletcher was cast. He does look the part. I just (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) felt he wasn’t slimey enough. Creepy yes, slimey not so much. Vinnie is a slime.
- Gavin-Keith Umeh – Benito Ramirez – Again I see why he was cast, I just never felt that he was threatening enough. Other than the scene where he grabs her by the neck (which seemed to not have any lead up), he didn’t seem to figure in enough. Ramirez is smooth and threatening and crazy as hell. Umeh just seemed mad – and for no apparent reason. Again I can’t tell if it was the script or the performance.
- Rex – I know, I know, he’s just a hampster. But I was expecting him to be brown. I’m just saying.
I think that my overall impression is that a reasonable cast has been let down by a somewhat clumsy script which seems to have tried hard to hit all the main points while missing the sutbleties. While I enjoyed the film, it’s a Saturday flick on DVD.
So Stephanie fans out there. What’s your take on the film? Did it live up to expectations?