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$5 a Day DVD Review

$5 a Day DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com $5 a Day

Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Video Debut: August 24, 2010

Director: Nigel Cole / Writers: Neal Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky

Cast: Christopher Walken (Nat Flynn), Alessandro Nivola (Ritchie Flynn), Sharon Stone (Dolores), Dean Cain (Rick Carlson), Peter Coyote (Burt Kruger), Amanda Peet (Maggie), Bridget Ann White (Mrs. Carlson), Nectar Rose (Sherry), Luis Avalos (Martinez)

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $27.98; Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP)

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When Christopher Walken began acting as a boy in 1953, living on $5 a day wasn't the greatest challenge.
Fifty-seven years of inflation later, a fiver from then is the equivalent of $40 today. Getting by now on a single-digit daily budget requires skill, something that Walken's character in $5 a Day appreciates as he takes frugal living to an art.

Rather than punching a clock, Nat Flynn (Walken) has survived by relying on friends, freebies, and the occasional fraud and forgery. Nat sends an airplane ticket to his Los Angeles-residing son Ritchie (Alessandro Nivola). Having just lost his restaurant inspector job and been dumped by his live-in girlfriend (Amanda Peet), Ritchie reluctantly agrees to visit deadbeat Dad in Atlantic City. There, Nat reveals that he has been diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor. With time running out, his only hope is a free experimental treatment in New Mexico, but with both driving and flying discouraged, he needs a ride.

Estranged father (Christopher Walken) and son (Alessandro Nivola) reunite for a thrifty, interesting road trip in the independent dramedy film "$5 a Day."

Strained as ever (in part because Nat's actions recently put Ritchie in jail for eleven months), father and son set out on a road trip in a pink Sweet'NLow ad on wheels (a free vehicle, gas included, provided Nat puts 1,000 miles on it each month). The indirect course Nat has drawn up incorporates gas stations and diners that are conducive to his lifestyle, which has kept his out-of-pocket costs down to $900 for the past six months.

Along the way, there are revelations about Ritchie's mother and the reasons for her and Nat's marriage dissolution. There is doubt over Nat's paternity that involves a wealthy used car salesman (Peter Coyote) embarking on a mayoral campaign. And there is a stop at Ritchie's old babysitter (a browned Sharon Stone), Nat's match in creative customer scams.

Based on Nat's ways, nothing is entirely on the level, and Ritchie remains skeptical of Nat's motives and his supposed illness.

Overtan former babysitter Dolores (Sharon Stone) offers the Flynn men an eyeful in a low-cut dress. Most of Amanda Peet's performance is reacting to the messages she hears being left on her telephone's answering machine.

$5 a Day is the fourth feature directed by Nigel Cole, a Brit whose films you're more likely to recognize than his name. Those three prior efforts -- Saving Grace, Calendar Girls, and A Lot Like Love -- all stand in the 6.0-7.0 range of the Internet Movie Database's user ratings. That's not a bad place to be; while they're a far cry from contemporary classic status, they're also acquitted of doing anything but good to their cast members' overall averages, be they Calendar's Helen Mirren or Love's Ashton Kutcher.
The numbers are more impressive when considering that none of those films plays directly to the young male audience most likely to rate a movie on IMDb.

Also straying from that site's top demographic, $5 a Day is aimed at adult viewers who are willing to consider things like mortality and family while also appreciating a good room service swindle.

Accompanying these two men on this precarious road trip is no chore. Sure, you suspect how it will end at the beginning (and it does). And some of the misadventures are just a little too cute. But Walken in typically eccentric Walken mode never really ceases to amuse. And in the more thankless, more difficult voice of reason part, Nivola does a swell job. All things considered, this movie is almost certain to stay in the sixes at IMDb now that it is finally getting a wide release. That will easily make this a career best for married screenwriters Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky, of whose prior scripts only one filming (the 2008 Hallmark TV movie Mail Order Bride) has come to DVD in the US.

Shot back in 2007 and first screened in 2008, $5 a Day made a few film festival appearances, then got delayed, according to Cole, by a studio/investor legal dispute. It now arrives Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray from Image Entertainment with some buzz but no general theatrical release to its name.

VIDEO and AUDIO

For an independent film, $5 a Day looks and sounds pretty great on DVD. The clean and sharp picture contains nothing more noticeable than some light grain. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack needs to be cranked up a little, but it satisfies with light atmosphere and perhaps excessive score.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Dean Cain (believe it or not) It wouldn't be a real Christopher Walken movie without a little bit of dancing. As this still gallery photo confirms, "5 a Day" is a real Christopher Walken movie. A mustachioed Flynn (Alessandro Nivola) seriously considers his father's invitation on the DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

First and foremost among the modest bonus features slate are interviews of six cast and crew members (strangely, none of them top-billed Walken). Director Nigel Cole (10:33) discusses casting, the quick shoot, and his attraction to emotional stories. Alessandro Nivola (7:00) talks about being in a "two hander" and the film's tone. Sharon Stone (6:35) explains her interest in the project and a standout scene. Dean Cain (4:00), Peter Coyote (4:50), and Amanda Peet (2:04) remark upon their supporting roles, their co-stars, their director, and, in Coyote's case, the business side of independent cinema.
The interviews are presented not with questions, but topic cards. Customary for the studio, these play like the flabby, full supply from which tidy featurette sound bites could be pulled (but in this case weren't).

Three still galleries play as short 30-70-second slideshow videos, offering high-quality cast, scene, and behind-the-scenes images.

Finally, we get a trailer (2:05) for the movie, the disc's only preview.

The main menu plays a montage of highlights in full 16:9 with the listings, handwritten title, and reprised end credits song (Marcus Foster's "I Don't Mind") overlaid.

Appropriately enough, a coupon for $0.35 off Sweet'N Low (all sizes except 50 count) is found within the slipcovered Eco-Box case.

Practice your Christopher Walken impression with this: "Come on! Your house is not a home (pause) until you hang up (pause) a colorful map of America." Keeping costs down on this road trip is the pink vehicle paid for by Sweet'N Low.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

$5 a Day is a little rough around the edges and I can understand why distributors weren't optimistic about its commercial prospects, but it's a pretty decent human dramedy. Christopher Walken is his usual good offbeat self, Alessandro Nivola does his best to ground things, and the picture remains entertaining and engaging. That's enough to merit a light recommendation, which Image's ordinary but serviceable DVD doesn't weaken or strengthen.

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Reviewed August 22, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Capitol Films, Aramid Entertainment Fund Limited, Baum/Goldenring Productions, and Image Entertainment.
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