$9.99: A Claymation Spiritual Quest

Tatia Rosenthal's stop-motion animation feature adds a measure of stolid creepiness to co-writer Etgar Keret's brand of dark whimsy. Like Jellyfish—the live-action film Keret directed with his wife, Shira Geffen, in 2007—$9.99 is an episodic affair detailing the absurd or fantastic encounters between all the lonely people—here, the inhabitants of a particular apartment building. An Israeli-Australian co-production, $9.99 is set in a city that vaguely resembles Tel Aviv, but is populated by Aussie-accented clay puppets: An aggressive beggar (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) shoots himself and returns as a no-less-irascible angel; a stoner is dumped by his girlfriend and consoled by a trio of heavy-partying pixie dudes; a repo man takes up with a supermodel, whose apartment includes some peculiar anthropomorphic furniture; and a little boy bonds with his ceramic piggy bank. The movie's nominal protagonist, a terminally unemployed 28-year-old still living at home with his depressed father, discovers, first, the meaning of life in a paperback purchased for $9.99 and, second, that nobody cares. The various scenarios intersect and comment on each other, abetted by an incongruously airy score. There's nothing especially spiritual or Jewish about $9.99, but, with its numerologically suggestive title, this curious movie does inspire Kabbalistic reveries. Is it a drama unfolding in one of God's failed creations? Are these depressed, abandoned beings a race of golems—inert creatures fashioned from clay and brought mysteriously to life?

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