$5 a Day – Blu-ray Review

There are people who clip coupons to save a few dollars on a trip to the grocery store and then there’s Nat Parker, a man who will drive around in a car that’s painted pink, and covered top to bottom in advertisements for Sweet ‘n Low, in order to not have to pay for the car or gas for a year.

Nat (Christopher Walken) is an unconventional conman who has spent his life making the system work for him, and by doing so, barely spending a dime out of his own pocket. Things change, however, when Nat finds out he’s dying from a brain tumor, and he takes it as a sign it’s time to make things right with his estranged son, Ritchie (Alessandro Nivola.)

Ritchie, fresh off being fired from his job as a health inspector due to not telling the company that he’d spent 11 months in jail, walks in to more bad news, as his girlfriend Maggie (Amanda Peet) is leaving him. She says he’s never opened up to her, and she doesn’t truly know who he is, and when he tries deny this, she tells him that his father called, which makes him not as dead as Ritchie had told her he was. That’s all going to change, however, as she informs him that Nat told her he was dying, and wanted to get in touch with his son. Ritchie tries to explain that he’s a conman, and it’s all a lie, but Maggie won’t hear any of it, and leaves.

With nothing left to lose, Ritchie heads to Atlantic City to see his father and find out the truth. When he arrives, his father, ready for his son’s skepticism, provides an x-ray of his brain, and tells him that the doctors said it was inoperable. He then brings up, however, that there’s an experimental treatment down in New Mexico, and he’s been chosen to be a patient, he just has no way to get down there. Although hesitant, Ritchie agrees to drive him across the country to get the help he needs.

$5 a Day is, no doubt, a road trip movie, though it’s a nice change of pace from the more recent ones, where the only reason for said trip is so that one of the characters can lose his virginity or indulge in sexcapades. This is a heartfelt story, and it comes across well in the calming mood the film emits, and the solid pacing that the story unfolds in as the two travel from one city to the next.

While the movie could have been quite predictable, it’s actually interesting how a simple story is made intriguing through a few little tweaks on the run-of-the-mill road story. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it’s enough to keep you interested in the story itself instead of just being captivated by how Nat lives his life; which is another fun part of the film that makes it easy to watch.

As said before, Nat works the system to his advantage so that he rarely has to pay for anything. Watching how his mind works, and how he comes up with various ways to get things for free is quite interesting, as it’s just not how the average person does things. While Ritchie believes his father’s methods can be an inconvenience, you can also tell he’s impressed at times, though he’s reluctant to show it due to their strained relationship that these same techniques caused.

Walken is great as Nat, and really, there’s not many others that could pull this part off as well as he could. His look, his attitude, and his delivery all come through perfectly, making you forget all the Walken jokes and impersonators out there, leaving you with a flawed character that wants nothing more than to right his wrongs before his time is up.

Nivola is spot on as Ritchie, and he’s definitely someone who should be working a lot more (he played Nicolas Cage’s bro in Face/Off and co-starred in Junebug), and getting chances to play bigger parts. This is a great stepping stone for him, and hopefully it will be the reason we see more of him in the future. Sharon Stone is also in the film, though not as a central character as the ads/posters may make you believe (on the cover art she’s in the car with the two, insinuating she’s on the trip as well; yet in the film, she’s just a stop along the way.) Still, she plays her part as an old friend of Nat’s, and Ritchie’s former babysitter quite well, and looks simply fantastic.

$5 a Day is a fun, heartfelt, never-boring movie about a father and son trying to rekindle a relationship before it’s too late. The acting is solid, and the story is enjoyable, and both of those put together mean this film is definitely worth checking out.

The audio transfer is solid, and there are no real complaints to be found in this department. The video transfer, however, even at what’s said to be 1080p just doesn’t come through as crisp as it should, with some scenes looking washed out, or grainy. It’s lacking the polish that set Blu-rays aside from DVDs, and while it doesn’t take away from the final product, it’s still something that shouldn’t be happening at this point.

Director and Cast Interviews – This featurette comes in at 35 minutes altogether, and sees Director Nigel Cole, and various actors give interviews on their characters, and thoughts on the film. While Walken is likely the busiest of the stars involved, it’s odd that he wasn’t nabbed to give his thoughts on the film, as really, he and Nivola are the two fans would likely want to hear from most. Either way, it’s something fans can enjoy if they want that little something extra.

Still Galleries – Production, cast and crew shots, and the usual goodies found in these types of galleries can be found here. The question is, however, who really wants to find them?

The theatrical trailer can also be found on the disc.

$5 a Day is a fun film that is worth checking out if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable little drama that will help you escape reality for a while. It’s got a fun story, with interesting characters, and a refreshing take on the road trip genre that will leave you with a smile on your face, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Capitol Films presents $5 a Day. Directed by: Nigel Cole. Starring: Christopher Walken, Alessandro Nivola, Sharon Stone, Amanda Peet. Written by: Neal Dobrofsky and Tippi Dobrofsky. Running time: 98 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: August 24, 2010.

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