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THREE DOLLARS is the story of Eddie, an honest, compassionate man who finds himself with a wife, a child, and three dollars. Eddie's world revolves around the three women in his life: his brilliant wife Tanya, a passionate academic, their six year old daughter Abby, who heightens the stakes on every decision Eddie makes, and his childhood sweetheart, the beautiful, privileged Amanda, who re-appears in his life with mathematical certainty every nine and a half years. Surviving with a blend of self-depreciating wit, spirited sensitivity and a big heart, his life is rich with the pleasures and pains of love, family, friendship and marriage. But with only three dollars to his name Eddie will be faced with a choice that will change the direction of his life forever. Written by
Although it has been suggested that "Three Dollars" is about the mind of the Australian Male, Melbourne version, (such as it is), it really could be set in almost any large Western city. Eddie (David Wenham), a genial thirty-something, works for a Government environmental testing agency as a chemical engineer. He is instructed to sign off on a dodgy developer's polluted project. He resists, and at the start of the film we see his reward, a forced march out the door. So much for fearless impartial regulators. Eddie is in a spot, no money (three dollars in fact) and his university tutor wife Tanya (Frances O'Connor) has also been laid off. They have a large mortgage and a cute six-year-old, Abby, to feed. Eddie gets a conducted tour by Nick, a derro (Australian for derelict) he once helped, of the mean streets that may await him, but at the end there is hope from a (possible) guardian angel in the form of Amanda (Sarah Wynter), Eddie's childhood sweetheart (and daughter of the dodgy developer) who in a coincidence worthy of Latin American magic realism, manages to pop up in Eddie's life every nine-andahalf years.
David Wenham can do comedy ("Getting Straight") or drama ("The Boys") equally well, and here he does both splendidly. His Eddie is amiable, a bit of a duffer, but instinctively decent. Thus he cannot approve the dodgy development, despite being aware of the consequences. Wenham, who has great integrity as an actor, has no trouble evoking the pain that can come with doing the right thing. Frances does a fine job as his ambitious but frustrated academic wife, and Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnic (aged nine) as the six-year-old Abby nearly steals every scene she is in. Two minor roles are in the scene stealer category also, David Roberts as Eddie's loathsome boss Gerald and Robert Menzies, unrecognizable as Nick the derro.
The plot leans heavily on coincidence. Not only do Sarah and Nick pop up so providentially, but Sarah is having an affair with Gerald, who happens to have once enticed Tanya away from Eddie with an offer to let her play a female Hamlet while they were all at University together. And of course there is the matter of Sarah's father being the dodgy developer. This all doesn't matter for the story is essentially a fable about keeping one's integrity even when everybody and everything seems to be conspiring to take it off you.
The script is fine though the pace flags at times and one or two of the plot diversions (eg meet the parents) seem unnecessary. There are also some unnecessary flourishes such as the crop-dusting plane attack - an apparent tribute to Hitchcock's "North by North West". Robert Connolly's only previous outing as a feature director was another entertaining modern fable starring David Wenham, "The Bank". It's a long wait between watchable Australian films these days so naturally I hope this does as well. It is a little less slick and a little more tuned to real feeling.
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