Tatia Rosenthal


7.3 $9.99 (2008) Links:

Tatia Rosenthal (1971, Israel) debuted with the stop-motion animated film $9.99 (2008), scripted by Etgar Keret, an exuberant fairy tale about the meaning of life. None of the characters finds the meaning of life but each of them finds something to replace it. A man wearing a suit and tie misses his bus and tries in vain to flag down taxis. He is approached by a tramp who begs for a cigarette and then a cup of coffee. The homeless man threatens to kill himself with a gun if the businessman doesn't give him just a dollar for the cup of coffee. The businessman declines because he doesn't like being manipulated and the tramp pulls the trigger and kills himself. Back home, the businessman, while he's washing away the blood, hears from his son Dave that he hasn't got the job for which he interviewed. The businessman suggests that Dave joins his brother in the repossessing business, although Dave doesn't think it's a respectable job. The father walks out to work and leaves Dave a $10 bill to prepare dinner. Their neighbors Michelle and Ron can be heard arguing very loud all the time because Ron doesn't want to marry her and start a family. Michelle leaves him. The elderly chatterbox Albert tries in vain to strike a conversation with anybody. Dave's brother Lenny, the repossessor, tries in vain to hit on Michelle, who is still crying. A child, Zack, who is an avid soccer fan, is disappointed when his father gives him a piggy bank instead of the soccer gift that he really wanted. Alone at home, a drunk Ron sees three miniature young punks (Bisley, Stanton and Drazan) who break the glass of his picture of Michelle calling her a "bitch". Dave finds the advert for a booklet about "the meaning of life" and orders it for $9.99, and his father mocks the whole idea. Old Albert receives a surprise visit in the middle of the night: a strange and rude angel who is no other than the homeless, now equipped with wings. And just like before he asks for money. Ron is asleep when Michelle calls him and he accidentally deletes her message. As the angel walks out of the building (hiding the wings under his coat) Lenny and Dave are walking in. It is Dave's first day on the job. Their boss Sammy is an obnoxious arrogant and heartless man. They walk into the apartment of a man called Marcus and Zack meets the angel in the street and picks up a feather that falls from his back. Sammy proceeds to take the man's most valuable objects but Marcus is a TV celebrity: a magician. He makes the brand new TV set disappear. Then Dave helps him sneak it out of the building. Meanwhile, Lenny hits on a young model who is waiting for the movers, Tanita. We see her on a poster (an advertising for a bank). Ron is drunk and high again with his three miniature hippy friends. Dave reads the book on the meaning of life. Sammy takes Lenny to the police to press charges on Marcus and fires Dave. The angel returns to Albert's apartment and tells him that he is bored. He is rude and obscene when a woman calls asking simple questions for a survey. Lenny has a date with the model Tanita. The questionnaire woman calls Dave and asks questions about jobs. Instead of answering her questions, he starts a conversation about the book that he is reading. Inside the book Dave finds more adverts for $9.99 books that claim to help people achieve all sorts of things. Knowing that his father would never give him the money, Dave breaks his clay bank at the same time that in another apartment Zack is putting coins in his. Dave's father is depressed because his wife left him, he raised the two sons by himself, and neither is a success story. Lenny's date goes well and Tanita becomes his girlfriend but also shaves his entire body, including his head. Meanwhile Ron still misses Michelle and sobs alone, possibly contemplating suicide. The angel is still in the company of Albert and getting even more bored. Albert guesses that the angel has never been to heaven and can't even fly: the angel is just an impostor with wings. Albert pushes the angel off the balcony and the angel, indeed unable to fly, crashes to his death right in front of the businessman who is just then returning home. During his fall he almost hits Ron who was contemplating suicide and Ron grabs the rails to survive. Just then Michelle comes to visit him and they make peace. The businessman is approached by another homeless man who asks for money and this time the businessman gives him his entire wallet, including documents. Albert tries in vain to confess his murder of the fake angel but the cop doesn't believe him. Zack's father tells Zack that he has enough money in the piggy bank to buy the soccer doll that he wants, but getting the money implies breaking the piggy bank and Zack has been treating it like a real animal and doesn't want to "hurt" it. Dave calls Lenny while Lenny is having sex with Tanita: their father has disappeared. In the middle of the night Zack, wearing only a pajama, runs away with his piggy bank. Zack runs to a park and we see that Dave's father is sleeping on a bench like a homeless person. Zack leaves the piggy bank (full of coins) in the park, assuming that pigs love parks. Albert packs his belongings and decides to travel to the coast that the angel said was like paradise. On the way out he meets Dave and tells him that he saw his father give the wallet to a homeless. Dave finds his father at the park, feeding the ducks. The man is having an existential crisis, meditating on 30 years of work. Dave hands him a book about swimming like a dolphin, sent to him as a replacement for the book that he ordered and that is out of print. His father practices in the park's pond but finds it difficult to learn. However, told that the alternative is to read the book on the meaning of life, he persists trying to swim like a dolphin. Meanwhile, Lenny considers removing all the bones from his body out of love for his skinny girlfriend, and has a conversation with two human beanbags. Michelle leaves Ron again after discovering that he started doing drugs again, and Ron parties with his three miniature friends. Albert is dancing at the beach with an elderly woman. Lenny comes back to Tanita's apartment after surgery with no bones, looking like a beanbag, and she is touched by this demonstration of love. Dave and his father swim like dolphins in the park's pond.

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