A film that bases its narrative on the journey of a $20 bill as it moves from wallet to cash register and back again, TWENTY BUCKS flows as easily as money circulates. Although the script seems contrived at moments, strong performances and slick direction make this an engaging, episodic diversion. A woman takes a crisp $20 bill from an Automated Teller...read more
A film that bases its narrative on the journey of a $20 bill as it moves from wallet to cash register and back again, TWENTY BUCKS flows as easily as money circulates. Although the script seems contrived at moments, strong performances and slick direction make this an engaging, episodic
A woman takes a crisp $20 bill from an Automated Teller Machine and promptly drops it. Angeline (Linda Hunt), a homeless woman, finds it and, after declaring her find a matter of fate, predicts that the serial numbers on the bill will win her the lottery. The bill is promptly snatched from her
hand by a skateboard bandit who spends the money at a bakery. Given in change for the purchase of a wedding cake, the twenty appears at a rehearsal dinner where the father of the bride presents it to the groom, Sam (Brendan Fraser), as a symbolic wedding present. At his bachelor party later that
night, Sam tips a stripper with the bill, just before his fiancee walks in and asks for the money so they can have it framed.
The stripper spends her tip at a store that sells fragrant oils. As the shopkeeper writes a letter to her grandson from a diner counter, Frank (Steve Buscemi) chats up Emily (Elisabeth Shue), a waitress with literary aspirations, whom he cons out of ten dollars. Jimmy (Christopher Lloyd), who
watched the scam, approaches Frank and suggests they work as a team. While they talk, the shopkeeper posts her letter, with the twenty bucks inside it, in a mailbox beside Frank's car.
The shopkeeper's teenage grandson gets the money and decides to spend it on two bottles of wine. He goes to a liquor store and gives the bill to Jimmy--who's about to pull a robbery--asking him to make the purchase. The robbery is botched, but Jimmy still delivers the wine. The crooks get away,
but Frank spots the $20 in Jimmy's pocket and starts getting hostile. Jimmy gives Frank the bill and then shoots him.
The bill is held as evidence in the shooting, but gets back into circulation after being included in a box of recovered stolen goods. It changes hands again, winding up in the wallet of Emily's father. The elderly man, who recently raged at his daughter's writing ambitions, drops dead at a bingo
game. Emily finds the bill in his wallet, next to a clipping of a short story he wrote as a young man. After a bizarre funeral service, she decides to go to Europe. While Emily's brother is seeing her off at the airport, Sam meets the father of his ex-fiancee at a table nearby. Emily tears up the
much-traveled bill and then bumps into Sam. As they board the plane together, Angeline gathers up the fragments of the shredded bill. Taping them together, she hears the winning number of the lottery announced. They are the numbers she never played. She curses the torn bill and exchanges it for a
fresh one. The serial numbers feel lucky.
TWENTY BUCKS takes a simple idea and pushes it to ingeniously entertaining lengths. Since the film never dwells on any one character for long, even the bleakest of the vignettes is colored by a light-hearted, absurdist tone. At times, the screenplay really crackles--especially when the scuzzy
Buscemi and refined Lloyd pair up. Elisabeth Shue, eyes nervously darting, also gives a strong performance as the would-be writer. Bonuses include Tina Turner and Spalding Gray, who plays a minister, in fine cameos.
The provenance of the script for TWENTY BUCKS is as intriguing as any twist in the narrative. It was written in 1935 by Endre Bohem, a writer who later turned producer (ALIAS NICK BEAL, TV's "Rawhide"), then rewritten and brought to the screen by his son Leslie (formerly one half of quirky pop
duo Sparks) over a ten-year period beginning in 1983. Directed by documentarian Keva Rosenfeld (ALL-AMERICAN HIGH), the final result cost less than $6 million and took the critics' prize at the Deauville film festival. (Nudity, profanity, violence.)
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