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January 18, 2006

Are You Poor?

I recently watched 'Millions', an enjoyable little tale about the naivete of schoolboy dreams and an interesting exercise into the unfulfilled fantasies of many an 'adult' mind.

The cute and clever protagonist of this tale is a young English boy of about 9 who, with his 12 year old brother were recently orphaned. They move, at the beginning of the film, with their father from old row houses to a new suburban subdivision somewhere in Britain. This takes place just before the clock runs out on the British Pound Sterling and the UK is expected to convert to the Euro (which never actually happened if I remember correctly). A train taking the old bills for destuction is robbed and a Nike bag with a quarter million pounds is dropped in the lap of this young boy whilst in the midst of summoning saints in his daydreams. His conversations with a dozen Christian martyrs during the story underlines his morality and fascination with death in light of the creation of the newest saint, his mum. While taking their advice (his own), he decides to give away as much money as he can to the poor.

For most of the film, his father and all other adults are completely out of the loop, and his brother as co-conspirator is preternaturally practical and stealthy about their newly found largesse. He goes about bribing his middle-school chums and trying to speculate in the real-estate market as his younger brother gets more and more generous, threatening to expose the whole deal.

It's a great premise which doesn't quite go to logical enough extremes to satisfy my inner philosopher, but enough to prod me beyond the simplistic equations of charity being good and materialism being bad. Fzample. The little philanthropist is rather blunt about his intentions to give away dough, and essentially goes around asking people whether or not they are poor. He immediately tells them that he's got moola for them. The older brother manages to keep their wealth on the down low. And so in his greatest fib he manages to convince the headmaster and all adults concerned that the thousand quid dropped into an African relief bucket was stolen from neighbors. That only worked because these were the very same neighbors they had just previously stuffed with a mailbox full of cash.

As an aside, I'm pretty enthused by British productions these days, and I've set the Tivo to hook me up with the latest AMC series called 'Hustle'. God help me, I'm turning into a stereotypical Anglophile.

At any rate, the bad guy in the film is the only one who sees through the artifice of the boys. He stole the money first. With the boy's father they set up an interesting foursome. One boy of pure heart who wants to become a saint by giving away money he didn't earn. One boy of craft and deceipt who wants to increase the pile of money through investment and buy influence over others. One man who stole the money and is trying to steal it back without alerting anyone. One man who discovers the money and feels it is owed to him because of hard knocks.

That pretty much covers it all, eh?

The story clearly takes the side of the boy whose ambition, to make peace with his mother's death, is beyond any such earthly concerns as the material well being of those directly around him. And as with much of the liberal attitude towards self-aggrandizement, the foil of Africa is amply used to demonstrate unadulterated love for mankind. I cannot be sure if the filmmaker was aware of the striking illustration made by the use of the device, but I sure did pick up on the idea. And so what I've taken from this flick, along with the satisfaction of an evening well spent on family entertainment, is some of the sheer folly of philanthropy. I still love the idea of being the Kung Fu Santa Claus, but I'll need to take the kink in the idea some straightening distance before I'll be as happy about it.

Posted by mbowen at January 18, 2006 02:15 AM

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nice review-however it should be under movies or something.I am desperately looking for source of cash to feed my family and to keep from getting evicted.there is little work in paterson,n.j.-work all day,still no money for food.if you know someone willing to help until situation is better-contact me.weareallrelated@thunderbird.com

Posted by: patti-anne at January 30, 2006 10:40 AM