I’ll say this loud and clear for those in the back – subject matter does not always mean it’s a good movie. Movies by Tyler Perry and the Kendrick Brothers carry strong Christian-based themes but they come off as poorly made movies only intended to suck in gullible viewers.
I got nothing against movies with strong Christian spiritual themes, but for God’s sake, make it entertaining. As Freddie Mercury said, “You can do what you want with my music, but don’t make me boring.”
Worth is about the events after 9/11 in which a compensation fund was formed for the victims’ families. But I don’t think anyone watching this will get a clear idea of it. This might have worked as a good 90-minute TV movie that came out in the latter 2000s, but it gets bogged down by a lot of cliched events and one-dimensional characters.
Michael Keaton plays real-life attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Keaton does his best, but he played this type of role better in Spotlight. Feinberg is portrayed as numbers man, an academic attorney who could tell you every legal case but can’t carry on a conversation with anyone wasn’t a lawyer. Scenes between Feinberg and his wife show the distance they have.
Even though the events take place over the two years after 9/11, director Sara Colangelo and writer Max Borenstein create a great scene on a commuter train as the camera is focused on Feinberg, with headphones on reading. We hear a cell phone ring in the background. A businessman out of focus answers, stands up and then looks out the window to his right. After this another cell phone rings. Feinberg remains oblivious to this for a few more moments before he notices everything.
The Fund was formed by an act of Congress in attempt to keep the victims from suing the airlines and I’m sure Feinberg was chosen for his abilities to remain objective. And a scene with victims families where his firm tries to present this objective formula ends up being a shouting match with mostly stereotypical characters.
Feinberg thinks he finds an ally in Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci in a role that should garner him an Oscar nomination) but Wolf, whose wife also died in the attacks, isn’t a supporter and tells Feinberg he’ll be the biggest opposition. Wolf later started FixTheFund.org to expose the problems with the initial proposal that would need a lot of support from the families.
The firm later listens to the families and we see their aggravation and grief with what has happened. Amy Ryan, playing Camille Biros, working with Feinberg, breaks down crying in one scene. She also must deal with the same-sex partner of a victim whose parents, living in denial not wanting his memory tarnished. The partner was a roommate, the mother tells Biros. The problem is Virginia state law at the time means the partner isn’t entitled to any compensation.
There’s also a widow, Karen Donato (Laura Benanti), who is somewhat being coerced by her brother-in-law, Frank (Chris Tardio) to deny compensation because her late husband, who was a firefighter, was having an affair and had two daughters with his mistress, meaning they’re entitled to the funds as well. This poses a question of exposing someone’s dark secrets after they’ve passed. We’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead but sometimes it needs to be addressed.
Benanti has a great role as a grieving widow and we can see her resistance is more resentment as she later tells Feinberg she suspected her husband of being unfaithful. Benanti, who has more experience on Broadway and on television, should get some recognition for her role.
If there had been more subplots as Karen Donato’s and how it affects the lawyers, it would’ve made the movie more fascinating. But there’s just something missing. The movie doesn’t have much of the right direction. It focuses too much on Feinberg.
And by doing so, we get the normal tropes and scenes. There’s a scene of Feinberg working too late, he misses a dinner with his kids. There “You’re working too hard you’re neglecting your family” scene is totally overdone. It has been for years.
This would’ve worked better as an ensemble movie, like Spotlight, which was able to get it all in and make us care about everyone.
Shunori Ramanathan has a nice role as Priya Khundi, a young professional, who works for Feinberg, but during a scene with Wolf, she reveals she was scheduled to begin work the same week of 9/11 at the same office as his wife in the World Trade Center. If Khundi is a real person or not is irrelevant. It presents a more personal attachment to the case.
But like I said, the movie focuses too much on Feinberg that I kinda got bored. Benanti, Ryan and Ramanathan give the movie the heart and soul it should’ve needed more of. In the end, we kinda get a dues ex machina ending where Feinberg finally realizes how wrong he was thanks to a meeting with a stereotypical sleazy high priced lawyer played by Tate Donovan. Wolf writes a favorable blog post about Feinberg and the hard work they’re doing and 97 percent of the victims’ families agree to compensation.
And for a movie with a title, it never does pose the question of how much a life is worth that someone who worked as a single janitor or a waiter at Wonders of the World wasn’t as important as the FDNY personnel or MBA bigwigs who were killed in the attacks that not even their bodies were found.
I remember a lot of the post-9/11 mantra that “We’re all Americans,” but the fund at least in its initial form before it was approved showed we weren’t the same. There’s a great story hidden here that one day, I hope someone looks closer at.
But as the years pass along, how many more audiences are going to be wanting to see another 9/11 movie. Sometimes, it’s done well, such as United 93 and sometimes it’s done pretentious such as World Trade Center. But it’s also done badly which is the case of the infamous and controversial The Path to 9/11.
There’s a lot of questions this movie poses but doesn’t answer. We talk about All Lives Matter and how valuable life is in the abortion debates, but when it comes down to money, well, that’s where we’re different.
The performances by Tucci, Ryan, Benanti and Ramanathan hold this movie together that you feel like finishing it, but you probably couldn’t watch it again.