A pointed satire that does the small things very well, yet when it reaches beyond itself it begins to plod. However, there is still an awful lot to enjoy here in Money Has Four Legs.
Due to money-stricken producers, strict censorship, and an unreliable crew, Wai Bhone’s first feature is not going quite to plan. Faced with a multitude of obstacles, the desperate young director and his feckless brother-in-law hatch a half-baked plan to ease their money worries.
Money Has Four Legs has such a strong opening, both funny and a clear look at the struggles of an independent filmmaker, that when we move away from the set and film production issues that Bhone faces, we lose a little of the interest that we should have for the film. Equally, there is a wonderful finale that works in relation to the opening, it is just the middle portion that needs to be trimmed down a tad as we are left to twiddle our thumbs in moments that just do not need to be as long as they are. It is a shame, as what is presented before us is a strong and relatable film; the film just tries to overload the ever-increasing despair that poor Wai Bhone faces once too often.
As we watch his producer rip through the script with “suggestions” on how to make this bolder incarnation of a local film more like the older black and white version. We see the struggles that are going to come Bhone’s way; no sex or cursing is allowed, and make sure the villain hands himself in at the end. So what is a filmmaker to do? In Bhone’s case, in this dramedy, push on as best he can without rocking the boat too much. His interactions with the producer are a continual highlight as we see our director try and showcase his talents and vision, only to be shot down because he isn’t paying for the film. It is a situation that many a filmmaker has probably come across in their career.
The look at Bhone’s home life is pointed to the current situation that people from Myanmar face; their inflation is sky high, and banks are closing left and right. The financial strains on hard-working people are clear, and no matter how talented they are, those obstacles will constantly remain in the way. In these two moments, Money Has Four Legs shines; we see the struggle of the working class and the absolute lack of assistance that they receive from the state and those in any form of power to help lift them.
Where it falters, however, is when it can never really decide what it wants to be. It tries to toe the line of a film that is talking about the struggles of the working class with some humour slotted in for entertainment, but when the film decides to go silly, it pushes it a bit too far. The more subtle moments of comedy work for more than the over the top comedy sequences. Small things like a nurse pointedly frowning at Bhone as he tries to light a cigarette work well, the same as instead of helping his actress off of the elephant as you and she expects, he merely takes the flowers and runs to the hospital.
With that said, there is still more than enough to entertain the audience; it just so happens that you wish it were stronger, especially so with such a great cast. Okkar Dat Khe plays the exasperated Bhone tremendously well; you can almost see the grey hairs forming in his hair as he tries to navigate this tricky situation in his life. Equally, Khin Khin Hsu, as his wife Seazir, is great. You easily buy her frustration of a woman just trying to keep the family together and continually stretching herself too thin until she has to decide what is best for her and her daughter.
Money Has Four Legs is a satire that does the small things very well, but at times can plod a tad too much when it needs to be quicker with its editing and story. However, there is enough to enjoy here, and with themes that need to be spoken about, it is a solid film.
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