not always immediately clear what is happening in
Robert Altman's latest film. Conversations among
the many characters are mumbled, obscured by rain showers,
clanking silverware, and layers of gossip and business dealings.
But it doesn't seem to matter much. The film is richly detailed
in character and design, the actors' performances are impeccable,
and the plot twists are intriguing. From the perspective of
the More Than Money reader, however, the negative depiction
of the wealthy characters poses challenges worth exploring.
by many as a combination between
(the long-running BBC television series about a wealthy
family and its servants) and an Agatha Christie murder mystery,
the film takes place at a fabulous English country estate.
A dozen wealthy friends and relations arrive with their
servants for a weekend of pheasant hunting, lavish dining,
and socializing. When someone is murdered, the characters'
intertwined lives begin to unravel, revealing a dark side
that is complex and, at times, compelling. Even though it
may all be intended as a spoof, the images of the wealthy
the movie portrays can still be a springboard for More Than
Money readers to examine many pervasive stereotypes.
wealthy are, to a person, vain, selfish
snobs. They laugh only at others' misery and find joy only
in raising their rank in the pecking order. No marriage
has love in it. No sexual encounter has tenderness. The
servants are proud, hard workers; the rich are bored. Aside
from a few intimate moments between Maggie Smith's character
and her maid, no one treats a servant with warmth, let alone
respect. The parallel worlds of
primarily filled with love and
phony; but the ease with which this film accepts the perpetuation
of stereotypes about the wealthy as greedy, cruel, and manipulative
all of us, no matter what our financial situation, yearn
to be taken care of: never to wash a dish or a shirt, never
to cook a meal, always to have servants help us dress up
for parties. For those questioning the role of wealth in
their lives, the natural desire to be taken care of may
clash with values of fairness and justice. Can we accept
the comfort and joy that money can bring? Can we justify
it with the suffering we see in the world? The wealthy in
the film see no suffering other than their own; are we afraid
we are like them?
few modern wealthy would admit to having "servants," many
of us employ people who clean our homes, mow our lawns,
care for our children. What are the social and moral obligations
of these relationships? Do we treat these people fairly?
Honestly? Do we speak in front of them as if they aren't
there? To what extent does
us? By seeing the film and using it as a springboard for
conversation, perhaps the Mo re Than Money reader can dispel
some of the myths about the wealthy and uncover the deeper
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