The human consequences of economic rationalism

April 20, 2005

Three Dollars
Starring David Wenham, Frances O'Connor, Sarah Wynter
Directed by Robert Connolly
Now showing nationally


Three Dollars follows somewhat in the footsteps of director Robert Connolly's last film, The Bank, the story of one man fighting back against the power and brutality of the banks — a deeply satisfying film to watch. Three Dollars is another collaboration with David Wenham, who stars in the lead role, and it explores a similar theme, but from more of a personal dimension.

The book on which the film is based was written by Australian writer Elliot Perlman in 1998. It's described as a brilliant fictional commentary on the human consequences of economic rationalism, a book that fused emotional and economic life with passionate intelligence. The book's dust jacket describes it as "a brilliantly deft portrait of a man attempting to retain his sense of humour in grim and pitiless times: times of downsizing, outsourcing and privatising. It is about the legacy of Thatcherism and its effects on people and their relationships. It is about us, now."

"I thought it was a terrific story", Wenham told the 7.30 Report on April 11, describing his reaction to the book. "It also dealt with a character that I could sympathise with and understand. He's a character that's the same age as I am. He has a partner and he has a little daughter, as I do at this point in time in my life."

Wenham plays Eddie Harnovey, a chemical engineer torn between feeding his family and fighting corruption in the government department where he works. "He comes to a point in his life where he has $3 to his name. I don't have $3, but that makes him go through his life and try to understand how he actually got to that point in his life, and that's something that, you know, I do every now and again."

Frances O'Connor also felt a certain affinity with her character, Tanya. She told the April 9 Sydney Morning Herald: "I know so many people who went to university, got a degree and are now finding it hard to make ends meet. It's different from the Australia a lot of us grew up in."

When they were devising the film, Connolly decided not to tell a linear story but to tell it in fragments and "create a jigsaw of a life". So the film starts at the end, and is spliced with flashbacks to university days when Eddie and Tanya had radical views and bad haircuts; when they were confident and hopeful about life and its opportunities.

From Green Left Weekly, April 20, 2005.
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