Life Lessons

From its opening scene, when a homeless man commits suicide after being refused a dollar by a passing businessman, to the close, where two naked men leap from the water like dolphins, director Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99 is one odd duck. The film takes a look at the lives of the residents of a Sydney, Australia, apartment complex as they search for meaning and happiness. This sounds conventional and “indie” enough, but the use of stop-motion animation, surreal and absurd situations and ambiguous message make for a far more intriguing piece than such a conventional synopsis would suggest.

Rosenthal adapted the work from a series of short stories by Etgar Keret, and the film’s lack of a traditional narrative focus seems to reflect this; it’s all over the place. Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The appeal here is that this movie is very much not another predictable slosh through cheap, rehashed philosophy and maudlin sentiment. It’s a strange, textured, multi-level meditation on life; an engaging spectacle; and a surprisingly whimsical take on some very heavy issues (death, loneliness, lack of purpose or meaning in life) that doesn’t take all the easy ways out.

$9.99 opens Friday at the Esquire Theater, 590 Downing Street. Tickets are $9.75 general admission and $7.25 for seniors, students and matinees. For showtimes and more info, visit
July 24-30, 2009


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