Someday to be used in film schools as a textbook example of how not to adapt a best-selling novel for the screen, “One for the Money” is mis-cast, mis-scripted, and mis-directed in every category. Janet Evanovich’s popular series of series of books about lingerie saleswoman-turned bounty hunter Stephanie Plum seemed like a sure bet. But what’s not a sure bet is an actress who signs on as producer so she can cast herself in what turns out to be a misbegotten vanity project.
Katherine Heigl is a beautiful actress whose greatest attribute is an imperishable freshness. In the right movie, like “Knocked Up,” that works in her favor. Surrounded by the crudest possible material the contrast she provided gave warmth and romance to the film. But her range is limited and she is way beyond her capacity as a gritty Jersey girl who once ran over the guy who never called after they had sex on the floor of the bakery where she was working. Stephanie Plum is not supposed to be perky and adorable. She’s supposed to be sadder but wiser, determined, and, above all, game. Director Julie Ann Robinson has more experience with television (“Two Broke Girls,” Heigl’s “Grey’s Anatomy”) and never finds the right rhythm for the material. It is lumpen and awkward and it telegraphs its surprises. And just because it is written, directed, and produced by women does not keep it from being sexist, with some unfortunate stereotyped sassy black hookers thrown in for added discomfort.
It is hard to work up the energy to be offended by the stereotypes, though, when one is suffocating from the lethargy induced by the movie’s sluggish pacing and the fog induced by Heigl’s attempts at snappy dialog and a New Jersey accent.
Stephanie is a divorcee (“I had a husband. I didn’t like it. I don’t want another one.”) who lost her job selling lingerie and is about to lose her car for failure to keep up the payments. Her cousin is a bail bondsman who needs someone to help with filing. She blackmails him into giving it to her and then realizes that the real money is in bounty hunting and that the number one fugitive is Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a cop charged with murder who in one of the movie’s most tiresome contrivances, has a past connection with Stephanie. Everyone in Trenton has a past connection with Stephanie.
We are then treated to a series of scenes in which Stephanie gets some guidance on bounty hunting from the hunky Ranger (Daniel Sunjata, another “Grey’s Anatomy” transplant) and has a series of cat-and-mouse encounters with Joe (the hunky Jason O’Mara of “Life on Mars”), trading painful quips that are supposed to be flirtatious but thud with a squish like overripe grapefruit. The mixed messages (Joe may be on the lam and handcuff her, naked, to the shower rod but he brings her coffee in bed) would be annoying if the whole movie was not too lethargic to merit that much attention.
I have a very thoughtful guide for ministries and other study groups who would like to explore the spiritual and religious themes in today’s Liam Neeson release, “The Grey.” If you want a copy, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Grey” in the subject line and I would be glad to share it with you.