New Money

We can spend our entire lives waiting for the one thing that will transform the world we know into a fairy-tale lifestyle beyond our wildest expectations. Eventually, it becomes a crutch, the be-all and end-all that erases all the hardship we’ve faced in our lives. While it comes true for very few of us, most of us die waiting for it to happen or we admit defeat and realize it was just a pipedream and go on with our lives. Then there are those who have the rug pulled from under them, who have relied on the dream for so long that they must make it come true no matter what. Writer/director Jason B. Kohl explores this obsession in his smart, engaging thriller New Money.

“…new wife Rose has used his dementia to write her out of his will.”

Debbie (Louisa Krause) barely gets by working menial jobs and getting high on opioids with her drifter boyfriend Steve (Brendan Sexton III).  When she sits down with her extravagantly wealthy father Boyd (Chelcie Ross) to finally get the inheritance he’s promised her all her life, she finds that his new wife Rose (Robin Weigert) has used his dementia to write her out of his will. Desperate, Debbie and Steve concoct a plan to get him to write a check for the money, which backfires right at the outset, forcing them to kidnap Boyd and squat in a summer mansion. Rose, eager not to lose her cash cow, hires a private investigator (Tom Wopat) and soon everything goes south for everyone involved.

Essentially, Kohl has delivered a perfectly encapsulated Cohen Brothers-type narrative with airtight precision. His ability to tell a bad tale gone worse is impressive in that there are no holes to break the flow. He also clearly understands painkiller addiction with his protagonists being functioning three-dimensional characters rather than flat junkies. Even his photography, though more utilitarian than stunningly jaw-dropping, conveys a certain claustrophobia that the characters all feel within the walls they have built around their worlds. Most effectively, he brings out a subtle irony in his ending that fully captures the futility of it all.

“…an excellent reminder of where desperation can lead if we let it get the better of us.”

The actors only add to its excellence. Krause clearly shines in her sympathetic portrayal of Debbie, who is stuck between her addiction and her desire to not have to struggle for once in her life. There’s a sequence where she spends the money she’s “earned” on herself and gets a makeover. The way her eyes radiate when she feels pretty for the first time reveals an acting ability beyond mere mimicry. The rest of the cast holds their own as well. Sexton elicits Steve’s aimless lifestyle and excellent chemistry with Krause, while Weigert balances ruthless revenge with a genuine love for her husband. Ross is completely convincing as someone slipping into Alzheimer’s, and Wopat (yes, the Dukes of Hazzard Tom Wopat) gives a memorable performance as the skeptical P.I., along with his partner Chris, played by David W. Thompson.

Life rarely turns out the way we planned. All we can do is hope for the best and expect the worst and accept the choices we’ve made along the way. New Money serves as an excellent reminder of where desperation can lead if we let it get the better of us.

New Money (2018) Directed by Jason B. Kohl. Written by Jason B. Kohl. Starring Louisa Krause, Brendan Sexton III, Robin Weigert, Chelcie Ross, Tom Wopat, and David W. Thompson.

9 out of 10 stars

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