Introducing the Dwights also known as Clubland overseas is the story of Jean (Brenda Blethyn) a comedienne at the end of her career. She desperately tries to get that one big break--and to keep her 21-year-old son Tim (Khan Chittenden) from becoming an adult. While Jean works her day job as a cook she relies on Tim to drive her to her standup gigs at small cabarets at night as well as take care of his disabled brother Mark (Richard Wilson). But then Tim meets and falls for Jill (Emma Booth) much to his mother's dismay. The budding romance is plagued not only by Jean but also by Tim's inexperience and Jill's insecurity. Jean also uses Mark to try to drive a wedge between the young lovers. But still the romance is blossoms while Jean's quest for an audition at the best and biggest club in the area is the goal that keeps her going. Brenda Blethyn (Pride & Prejudice Secrets & Lies) plays the alcoholic Jean as a domineering entertainer. The British veteran is marvelous portraying Jean’s narcissism as she cajoles seduces and berates everyone around her clinging to a fleeting dream of stardom while holding onto her sons for some stability. Blethyn's performance is astounding for both the venom and tenderness she brings to the character. As well newcomer Khan Chittenden is terrific as the shy and inexperienced Tim and he pairs up fabulously with another newcomer Emma Booth as Jill. Richard Wilson also does an amazing job as the mentally disabled Mark imbuing a keen sense of humor in his observations obviously inherited from his mother Jean. Cherie Nowlan is more known for her television directing in Australia but has definitely readied herself to embark on this new career path. She handles Keith Thompson's script with aplomb incorporating an almost documentary style of filmmaking when dealing with the relationships which makes for a visceral and engaging entry into the lives of these characters. The direction also complements what is a very realistic romance between two young people. When Tim is shy and awkward with Jill the up-close-and-personal style makes it sweetly uncomfortable. But then Nowlan switches gears and uses more traditional camera-work and lighting when Jean is onstage making it more clinical and otherworldly and setting the two worlds apart. Introducing the Dwights is a delightful gem.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.