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?
Slacker searches for, yes, the meaning of life.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., July 17–Thurs., July 23. Rated R. 78 minutes.