Money Review: Short-changed

May 23, 2010 by  
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MONEY: Sunday 25th May, BBC2. 9pm ALERT ME

Martin Amis’s cult classic gets an adaptation this weekend in the first part of Nick Frost-fronted drama, Money, but while the performances are universally solid, it persistently feels like there’s something missing – a sketch drawing with none of the colours filled in.

John Self (Frost) is an advertising executive relocating from London to New York in order to pursue his dream of supesrstardom as a movie director. He’s aided by fast-talking smooth producer Fielding (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser) who persistently refers to him as “slick? and complicated by actors which won’t accede to his script’s demands, a father who demands compensation for all the money he spent raising his son, a wayward girlfriend back in London and John’s self-destructive nature.

Frost makes a believable anti-hero – a fat moustached sod, marinated in his vices of pornography, fast food and alcohol, almost a metaphor for the lifestyle of excess of the 80s but despite these less than endearing qualities is oddly likable. Frost looks like a cross between the Fat Sweaty Coppers from The Fast Show and legendary porn star Ron Jeremy.

Self lurches from one vice to another, frequenting brothels, drinking until he passes out and missing important meetings but barely scraping through by a mixture of luck and brashness. He’s also receiving threatening phone calls from a mysterious stranger who keeps saying that he wants his life – something that clearly isn’t going to bode well in next week’s conclusion.

Money is a darkly humorous drama, a satirical sideswipe at the bloated excess of the 80s and the innate ridiculousness of the media. But there’s something about it that doesn’t feel quite right – while there’s nothing wrong with the performances, it lacks the ability to really absorb the viewer and the comedy never really gets into its stride.

I haven’t read the book which is regarded as one of modern literature’s masterpieces but it’s difficult to feel that Money the adaptation contains none of the subtlety or cleverness that Martin Amis is renowned for. Self is a bumbling oaf of a man, staggering from one humiliation to another but that’s all he is – a fat man who can’t quite get things right – you keep waiting for a moment of incisive insight about his condition which sadly never comes.

It’s certainly watchable, and it’s worth checking out the concluding part next week, which promises to offer some interesting twists but it fails to really stimulate the imagination and you can’t help but feel that this is surely a dilution of Amis’s potent novel.