Worth was one of my most anticipated movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Director Sara Colangelo returned to the festival following 2018’s The Kindergarten Teacher to tell the true story of Ken Feinberg (played by Michael Keaton), an attorney who battles against cynicism, bureaucracy and politics to help the victims of 9/11. This is a powerful, emotional, masterfully acted film and surely to be one of the best movies out of this year’s festival.
Worth is the kind of movie that immediately hooks me. I am a sucker for political dramas centered around the law that feature excellent acting and brilliant writing. Think movies like All the President’s Men, Lincoln, and last year’s The Report. These are movies about men who have their backs against the wall and must fight for what is right even if there are higher ups who say otherwise. This might sound a little corny, but these movies work for me and Worth is yet another example of why these kinds of movies work.
Michael Keaton gives a great performance as Feinberg. Feinberg is a very straight-laced man. A man who’s life revolves around numbers and stats. But when he is put in-charge of the 9/11 Relief Fund, he soon realizes that numbers aren’t going to do it. How do you put a price on a life? How can a person be just a number? Is one life worth more than another? Keaton gives a restrained performance here as a man who must learn compassion and empathy in order to get this fund past. Though we know Keaton can go big in his performances, this is one of the most subdued performances of his career as he gives us a man who’s way of logic by numbers is slowly being changed by emotion and empathy. It is strong work from one of my all-time favorite directors.
The supporting cast around Keaton is just as extraordinary. Stanley Tucci is incredible as Charles Wolf, a man who’s wife died during the 9/11 attacks and is now forming is own coalition against the 9/11 Relief Fund. Tucci portrays Wolf as a man of dignity, intelligence, and sadness as he doesn’t just want the 9/11 Relief Fund to be fair to him, but be fair to everyone and he challenges Feinberg to make this happen. This is a performance I could see garner awards attention later in the year. Amy Ryan also co-stars as one of Feinberg’s attorney’s who tries to stay even keeled during the whole process, yet gets caught in a case that effects her emotionally. And Laura Benanti is a scene-stealer as a woman who’s husband died during the attacks. Every scene she is in is full of authenticity and raw emotion and she blew me away.
Working on a tight script from Max Borenstein, Colangelo keeps the film engaging the whole time. Though about 9/11 and the tragedies that came from it, there are nice moments of sweetness, comedy, and character rapport that keep the film from being a depressing slog. Colangelo also knows when to pull at the heartstrings and does so in a big way in a number of scenes. Plenty of sniffles were heard around the theater on multiple occasions.
Worth is an inspiring true story about humanity. Led by awards-caliber performances by Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci and a terrific script, this is an important movie about a man learning compassion to help those effected by a horrific tragedy. Worth solidifies Sara Colangelo as one of the most promising young voices working today.
Worth premiered in the PREMIERES section of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
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