“Relationships don’t come cheap.”
I guess I’m pretty much like most film watchers in certain areas. When I saw that $5 A Day was rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief nudity, I did what most red-blooded American guys would do. I took a look at who was in the cast. This might work. I suspected we’d be treated to a little quick peek at Amanda Peet or Sharon Stone in a little birthday suit flash. OK, now I’ve got a little something to look forward to. Little did I know that the brief nudity part referred to watching Christopher Walken and, to a lesser extent, Alessandro Nivola, running naked on a beach. So much for MPAA warnings. I just gotta stop reading those things. Little did I know that that cheap thrill was going to be the only thing worth looking forward to in this standard relationship/road movie. And it didn’t even happen. So what did happen? I mean, beyond the aforementioned scar to my retina?
Flynn (Nivola) is having a very bad day. Have you ever noticed how many of these films start out with someone having a bad day? He’s just lost his job as a health inspector because they found out he lied about a previous arrest on his application. Don’t you just hate when that happens? His girlfriend Maggie (Peet) is moving out of his apartment. And his estranged criminal father has been begging him to come east to Atlantic City to see him. He claims that he’s dying, but Flynn has heard it all from his con artist of a father. However, with no job and no girl, he decides that he doesn’t have anything else to lose at this point. So, he goes. Nat (Walken) claims to be dying of a brain tumor. There is a research clinic in New Mexico where he has been able to get into a clinical trial that might help him. He wants Flynn to drive with him across the country so that they can get reacquainted with what little time he has left. Flynn is skeptical, of course. Still, he takes pity on his father’s lifestyle. He gets by on contests, coupons, and scams. He brags that for the last few years he’s lived on just $5 a day (hence the title).
The two set out in the ugliest car I’ve seen in a movie yet. It’s a pink car painted with Sweet & Low packets. It’s another one of Nat’s schemes. He gets the car complete with gas and upkeep free so long as he drives at least 1000 miles a month. As if the car couldn’t get any uglier, it’s also a PT Cruiser. There go those retinas already, and we haven’t even gotten to Walken naked on a beach yet. Along the way, Nat uses one scam after another to avoid actually paying for anything. Flynn gets sucked in and actually starts having some fun. But is the trip really a medical mission,or Nat’s biggest con yet? I won’t spoil it for you here, but if you’ve got the education of a 3rd grader you can pretty much answer that question 15 minutes into the movie.
The film is harmless enough, but there just isn’t anything new or exciting here. Walken attempts to carry the film on his shoulders, and he dang near does. There’s not a lot of chemistry between the two leads, and the predicaments are just too predictable. There are no laugh-out-loud moments in the entire film. Then there’s that whole Walken naked on the beach thing. It’s a better road movie than it is one of those relationship comedies.
And what about those girls we thought we were going to get a better look at? Amanda Peet is completely underused here. She shows up in the beginning and end and has short spots in between were she basically stares at her phone listening to Flynn leave voicemail messages. Sharon Stone shows up for what is basically an extended cameo as one of the stops along the way. She plays Flynn’s old babysitter who admires Nat and has developed her own hustle lifestyle. She’s a slip-and-fall artist without a lot of the falling down. There’s a point here where you might be getting your hopes up for that brief nudity … well, you won’t, because you already know about that whole Walken naked on the beach thing that’s coming.
The film can be somewhat charming. It just doesn’t have any oomph to any of it. Most of it is quite unremarkable, fading quickly from your memory. Except that whole Walken naked on the beach incident.
$5 A Day is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of only 20 mbps. There isn’t a whole lot of effort put into this image presentation. There’s moderate grain, but I can live with that, because it’s part of the film itself. Detail is really not much higher than a standard- definition DVD. Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with the image. It just doesn’t really stand out. Colors are natural enough, but the image doesn’t have any high- definition punch. I have no idea why the bit rate was so low. There aren’t really a ton of extras on the disc.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 does what a dialog film needs for it to do. The sound remains sharp and clear. Dialog is always right there. There’s not any real sub going on here. It’s flat, but then again it’s a comedy with a lot of talking. There aren’t really any dynamic gags going on here.
Interviews: (35:05) The short segments are sit-down talks with Director Nigel Cole, Alessandro Nivola, Sharon Stone, Dean Cain, Peter Coyote, and Amanda Peet. It’s low- quality standard definition. Walken is notably absent here.
Did I mention there’s a scene with Walken and co-star running naked on the beach? Walken is a special kind of actor. There’s really no argument there. We’re not used to seeing so much of him. No, I’m not talking about the whole naked thing. He’s best when used as a special character that makes an extended cameo in films like Pulp Fiction. There’s no question he’s the best part of the film. But taking these circumstances and a lack of originality, the film is doomed to be ” a fruitless effort”.