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$9.99 - animated DVD / arthouse and international DVD review
$9.99 Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 2 stars
Featuring: Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Samuel Johnson, Barry Otto, Joel Edgarton
Director: Tatia Rosenthal Distributor: E1 Entertainment
DVD release: 23 February 2010 Feature runtime: 78 minutes / 1 disc
Format: AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, DVD, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD Features, Volume 1: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Dolby 2.0 Surround - English), Subtitles (English), 2 short films from director Tatia Rosenthal and writer Etgar Keret (Crazy Glue, A Buck's Worth)

Still shot - $9.99Dave Peck is having one of those moments of epiphany. He knows there must be more to life than what he is experiencing and what he sees in the lives of people around him. His mother left his father for someone diametrically opposite, and none of the Peck men-Dad, Dave, or Dave's brother-have really recovered from that betrayal of love. Each of them aspires to life in his own way, but none of them is really succeeding.

Enter a fairly pissed-off and confused angel looking for a little spare change to get a cup of coffee. As his story unwinds throughout the film, it becomes clear that this pathetic entity has never even been to heaven. He's disgruntled and hurting, reincarnated in a sense and not understanding what has gone wrong-or why.

The tenants of Dave's apartment building are all struggling, too, refusing to acknowlesdge that their own situations are really their own personal quests for the meaning of life. Dave, however, fully admits that he is lost in his neutral existence and has found some inspiration in the pages of a book: $9.99, The Meaning of Life-On Sale Now! With such a wealth of wisdom at hand, Dave feels compelled to share his new knowledge with all his neighbors. Unfortunately for them, none will take the time to listen. Perhaps a few minutes of their time would have saved them a lot of grief.

The unraveling lives of the building tenants are truly depressing, though some dawning light does seem to be on the horizon. The potential for positive changes are on the way as each hits a low-point on his or her current path, and the only remaining options are to take a better path, remain on the same, or die. It's amazing how hard the decision seems to be when the meaning of life-painfully obvious yet somehow missed-is so beautiful for each of them, if they but took the chance to realize it.

$9.99 is undeniably deep-beyond the average viewer's appreciation, that is-and most obviously intended as "art" with its segueing epiphanies about the true meaning of life. Sadly, the film neither makes a good impression nor is interesting enough-for any length of time-to get viewers on board with the plot (or kept awake) for the duration of the movie. The "less is more" concept is disregarded as great numbers of characters and segueing storylines are used to get a point across.

In addition, watching the clay-animated figures go through some totally jaw-dropping sequences-graphic sex and bloody suicides, to name a few-pushes the potential for any profound moments of understanding out the window. It's like walking in on a 4-year-old's cartoon session and seeing the characters in pornographic levels of interaction. That kind of shock is just wrong.

With big name actors, nominations for two Annie Awards and various film festival nods, some qualities of $9.99 are redeeming. A few of the characters' situations generate compassion and empathy. Also, given the range of personality, age and experience of a typical audience, the numerous characters and storylines are understandable from the perspective of trying to "reach everyone" with the message.

Overall, the meaning of life expressed in $9.99 is pretty great. It's just distressing that the final package affects one more like a violent video game - so demanding and shocking that it's easy to completely forget that there's a plot unfolding before your eyes.
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reviewed by Sonia R. Polinsky
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