Based on a series of short stories about the meaning of life by Israeli writer Etgar Keret and featuring silicon puppets brought to life with stop-motion animation, $9.99 is a sort of animated, metaphysical Short Cuts. A homeless-man returns to earth as an angel, a slacker with girlfriend issues hangs out with his three miniature friends, a repossession officer dates a model who has a disturbing fetish and an unemployed 28-year-old discovers the answer to life in a mail-order book. All occurring within the same apartment block, these stories, and a few more, are skilfully weaved together by New York based writer/director Tatia Rosenthal.
$9.99 is an Israeli-Australian co-production so while the impressive local voice cast (including Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia and Claudia Karvan) are Australian and while the script has been adapted to suit the Australian vernacular, the look, setting and themes of $9.99 don’t belong to any specific part of the world so are universal in their neutrality. The animation is unfortunately a little ugly, which distracts from the final product, but it does facilitate the blend of Magical Realism, macabre and whimsy that distinguish this curious film.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 338, 2009