Denizens of a downtown apartment building grapple with happiness and life's meaning in the stop-motion, adult-pitched animated curio "$9.99."

Denizens of a downtown apartment building grapple with happiness and life’s meaning in the stop-motion, adult-pitched animated curio “$9.99.” New York-based helmer Tatia Rosenthal employed nine animators for 40 weeks on the Sydney shoot, resulting in a deliberately coarse character style that’s more Gumby than Gromit. First ever Australian-Israeli co-production may be too specialized for theatrical, though its unique profile and name voice talent will yield fest action and tube sales.

Accosted by a philosophizing homeless man (voiced by Geoffrey Rush), single dad Jim (Anthony LaPaglia) begins a day of sartorial accidents. Sons Dave (Samuel Johnson), who’s spent the title amount on a book promising life’s secrets, and repo man Lenny (Ben Mendelsohn) have adventures of their own, as do soon-to-be-married Ron (Joel Edgerton), fiancee Michelle (Claudia Karvan), youngster Zack (Jamie Katsamatsas), retiree Albert (Barry Otto) and kinky supermodel Tanita (Leanna Walsman). Rush calls the piece “a claymation of Robert Altman’s ‘Short Cuts,’ ” albeit with more surreal elements suited to animation. Pic is clearly meant to take place in urban Australia, though the architecture is suggestive of Tel Aviv. In Oz patois, the title is pronounced “nine dollars ninety-nine.”

$9.99

Australia-Israel

Production

A Screen Australia (Australia)/Israel Film Fund (Israel) presentation of a Sherman Pictures (Australia)/Lama Films (Israel) production. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, London.) Produced by Emil Sherman, Amir Harel. Executive producers, Mati Broudo, Hezi Bezalel. Directed by Tatia Rosenthal. Screenplay, Rosenthal, Etgar Keret, from stories by Keret.

Crew

Camera (color), Susan Stitt, James Lewis, Richard Bradshaw; music, Christopher Bowen; production designer, Melinda Doring. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 6, 2008. Running time: 78 MIN. Voices: Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Samuel Johnson, Claudia Karvan, Joel Edgerton, Barry Otto, Leanna Walsman, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Katsamatsas, Brian Meagan.
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