At first it would seem difficult to make a film from the stories of Etgar Keret or at least difficult to make a film with a narrative thread that spanned the film and was not a series of little vignettes. Keret is known for ultra short stories, most under 3000 words, and they are usually not linked together in any discernible way. Instead, they form a chaotic reflection of the sometimes unexplainable in our lives, not a what could happen, but how you react if something similar were to occur. These reactions to things that most likely couldn’t occur—a man with wings, for instance—but illuminate emotions that are otherwise buried by the often tired social realism.
In $9.99 the film makers have continued with Keret’s focus on the unexpected, but have joined many of the stories to create several narrative threads that run throughout the film and smooth what otherwise might have been a choppy film. Even though the stories have been reworked they still contain the element of the unexpected that most manifests itself in this film as a counterweight to the dull, the weight of loneliness in modern life. One thread follows an old man who has lost his wife and is lonely, trying to talk with who ever passes by. One day he meets a man with wings who he takes for an angel. This angel is not angelic, though, but a bum who scrounges money off the old man. While it might seem like a story of a helpless old man, when the old man pushes the angel off the roof to see if he flies the story moves from the melancholy to a rejection of the simple salve the angel represents and at the same time a freedom for the old man.
The stories are always funny, if touched with melancholy and despite the dark ending of the old man and the angel the story is much lighter than it seems. It is the interplay between melancholy and humor, loneliness and hope, that makes the film good. When the unemployed son of a business man buys a book that explains the meaning of life for $9.99, the disappointment isn’t expressed in shouting, but a sadness that expresses affection and as the story of the father and son continues it isn’t the strangeness of the events but how they find release from all their disappointments that makes the film interesting. $9.99 is a great introduction to the world of Etgar Keret and the movie will surprise anyone who has not read his works with its inventiveness.