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$5 a Day (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

$5 a Day

$5 a Day

$5 A DAY (2008)

Starring Christopher Walken, Alessandro Nivola, Sharon Stone, Dean Cain, Peter Coyote, Amanda Peet, Beth Bailey, Marya Beauvais, Frank Bond, Christopher Dempsey, Christopher Hagen, Anne Johns, Diana Maimin, Mike Miller and Mandy Olsen.

Screenplay by Neal Dobrofsky and Tippi Dobrofsky.

Directed by Nigel Cole.

Distributed by Image Entertainment.  98 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

$5 a Day certainly does not have the world’s most original storyline – an unhappy adult loser has to reconnect with his estranged, dying con man father on one last big road trip.  In fact the star of the film, Christopher Walken, played essentially the same role in the very similarly plotted and sadly mostly forgotten 2005 comedy/drama Around the Bend.

However, even if it does follow a bit of an indie film formula, $5 a Day is written in a quirky and charming enough manner that you mostly overlook the fact that you’ve seen it all before.

Alessandro Nivola – a natural and likable actor who never quite gets the breakthrough role that has been predicted for him for over a decade since he broke into films with Face/Off and Mansfield Park – plays Flynn, a three-time loser who in one day loses his job, has his girlfriend move out on him and receives a plane ticket from his estranged dad to fly cross country to Atlantic City to meet up with him because the old man has a malignant tumor in his brain.

Or so he says.  Flynn has a hard time believing Nat (Walken), because he is a small-time grifter who has lied to his son many times over the years – eventually even letting the son do eleven months in jail to cover up for his crime.

Of course, Nat’s crimes have always been very much on the petty side.  For example, Nat has fake driver’s licenses with birthdates for every day of the year so that he can get a free meal at IHOP.  (There are a whole lot of product placements in this film.)  Other scams that Nat is running is getting free usage of a Sweet & Low mobile as long he drives the mobile advertisement 1,000 miles a month, regularly crashing corporate functions for food and drink and staying overnight at empty homes for sale.

However when Flynn shows up at Nat’s apartment – a cool little dive under Steel Pier in Atlantic City of all places – Nat insists that he is dying and begs the son to drive him across country to try an alternative therapy, for free, of course.

Nat takes Flynn on an extremely round-about tour of their past (and local IHOPs, so they can always eat for free).  As father and son spend time together, even though they annoy each other at first, eventually they somewhat bond, while crossing paths with Flynn’s first crush, his babysitter (a haggard-looking Sharon Stone) and a former partner of Nat’s who stole away Nat’s wife.

The story is meandering and sometimes just a little too coincidental for its own good, but the script is mostly smartly written and funny enough that the film overcomes its own limitations.  Much like Nat, the movie is more charming and entertaining than it really has any business being – but you don’t really buy what it is saying for even a second.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: August 24, 2010.


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