This Israeli/Australian co-production – the first of it’s kind – is comprised of vignettes all set around one decrepit apartment complex. It could be set in some fantastical land of the cerebrum, but the slew of Aussie accents soon make us think otherwise.
It kicks off in tremendous fashion with widowed dad Jim (voiced by Anthony LaPagilia) being stopped in the street by a philosophising homeless man (Geoffrey Rush). After an existential exchange, the bum blows his brains out. The blotchy red running down Jim’s claymation suit is hardly what we expect from a claymation feature, but it’s an unlikely event which starts of a chain of small stories about character’s striving for meaning in life.
Next we meet Jim’s son Dave (Samuel Johnson), an unemployed bum who longs to work in a call centre (an ironically easy to obtain job, he is so hopeless that he is rejected at the interview). His other son is loveable brute Lenny (Ben Mendelsohn), whom enters into a contorting, frequently nude sexscapade with Tanita (Leanna Walsman). Across the apartment hall is Ron (Joel Edgerton), a stoner who smokes with a trio of mischievous fairies, whilst contemplating suicide after his fiancee Michelle (Claudia Karvan) has bailed on him. Elsewhere is Zack (Jamie Katsamatsas) a young bairn who talks to a smiling piggy-bank. Most delightful of all is the lonely old widow Albert (Barry Otto) desperate for companionship, until the homeless man from the opening prologue swoops down as a restless angel still wandering the Earth.
There’s one word that critics use as a cliche bedfellow when it comes to reviewing claymation movies – charming. Ostensibly a weightless term, for once is it inapplicable. Although the skill involved in the production may be laborious and commendable, I’ve never seen stop-motion animation craft look so rough, crude and ugly as it is in $9.99. It’s not a deal-breaker – beauty is only skin-deep, after all – but Rosenthal fails to engage audiences narratively too with humour, drama or poignancy, relying mainly on the dynamic voice-cast to bring the much-needed brevity (Rush, in particular, makes good out of such a disappoint script).
Running at a 78 minutes, $9.99’s hodge-podge mini, but relatively grandiose plots are rushed, and we never get anymore than surface-level engagement with the movie. A valiant, if a little overzealous attempt at adapting Israeli author Etgar Keret’s fantastic socio-political short stories, it’s meagre running time is perhaps a blessing in disguise.