If there’s anything movies should have taught us, it’s that when you come across a bag full of money, you leave it the hell alone.
It doesn’t matter what the situation. If there’s a large amount of money missing someone is eventually going to come looking for it, and you won’t like it when they do. It will ruin everything and everyone in your life. So just don’t do it, okay? There’s no such thing as free.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for our sakes, Mr. G.F. Zwaen hasn’t learned this important life lesson yet. In The Glorious Works of G.F. Zwaen, he’s an author that’s in a bit of a tough spot and runs into said bag of money at exactly the worst possible moment in his life. While he’s a published author he’s only working for a small publishing house, and based on sales his latest novel doesn’t look like it’s going to be getting a second print run. He’s working on a kid’s book that’s not exactly going to be his big break into literary stardom, something he literally dreams about night after night. And his wife, a psychiatrist who was the big breadwinner of the family and supported him for years and years through his ailing career, has finally divorced from him and is no longer supplying him with the cash he needs to keep writing.
Now living out of the cottage he bought from his last book’s advance, clearly meant to have been a summer home rather than a full-time residence, he is bummed by his career path. If only he had the means to keep writing, he’d be able to put out a novel that would be considered one of the greats! One night he decides to take up a neighbor (who’s a publisher) on his earlier offer of a drink. Zwaen knocks and enters the home and finds his neighbor lying dead on the couch, along with two more thuggish individuals, who are equally dead. Guns lie on the ground in front of them. Blood is everywhere. Zwaen runs out, horrified, only to return a few moments later. Wasn’t that money he saw poking out of the large bag in between them…?
You can guess where the story goes from there, involving crooked cops, angry gangsters and a writer constantly lying about his progress in stories and what he’s going to do. Even though Zwaen thinks he stole the money without a trace things soon go wrong one after the other, scaring him into immediately regretting his decision and amusing the film’s audience, who will be shaking their heads and tut-tut-ing at the knowledge that they would clearly do no such thing.
The Glorious Works of G.F. Zwaen definitely doesn’t have the pacing or dark humor of other thrillers in this vein, the style that the Coens have perfected, because for the most part you will have no sympathy for Zwaen and it’s played relatively straight. As with most writers (ahem), Zwaen is a narcissist and only concerned about events in light of how they will affect him. It’s one of the many reasons his wife left him, and one of the reasons you might not find much interest in his plight. You’ll watch things happen to him and not be moved at all, since he brought it all upon himself and doesn't seem to particularly care about what's happened because of it.
News out of Fantastic Fest is always dominated by the, well, more fantastic movies being screened, but it’s important to note how many well-crafted dramas and thrillers they screen, of which this is one. It's nothing that's going to blow you away or become some new classic of the genre, but some great acting and a compelling story make it a more than worthwhile ride.
But honestly, this works best as a reminder that you should always leave the bag of money alone.