Film: Other Peoples Money

1991 drama/romantic comedy staring Danny DeVito and Penelope Ann Miller. Lawrence Garfield, a/k/a "Larry the Liqudator," (DeVito) is an apparently heartless, but secretly lonely, corporate raider launching a hostile takeover of a company that makes wire and cable. The founder of the company reaches out to Kate (Penelope Ann Miller), to stop him. Larry soon becomes enamoured of her (seeing as how she's, you know, Penelope Ann Miller—click the link under Male Gaze), leading him to try to beat her and woo her at the same time.

Tropes used in the film:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: In the original play, Larry's last name is the very Jewish-sounding Garfinkle.
  • And Then What?: Kate asks Larry this. He responds, astounded:
    "And then what?" Whoever has the most when he dies wins!
    • Of course, by the end of the film, Larry is no longer happy just making more money (if he ever was), because he is in love with Kate.
  • Anti-Hero: Larry the Liquidator (type 1) greedy, materialistic, lecherous, and ruthless in the pursuit of money. However, unlike similar characters he pursues wealth in entirely legal ways, refuses to take bribes from those he targets, and-being played by Danny Devito-if you're not one of the companies he's trying to liquidate he actually seems like a fun guy to know.
  • Anti-Villain: Andrew " Jorgy" Jorgenson (played by Gregory Peck in his last major role). If Larry is a reconstruction of the Corrupt Corporate Executive, then Jorgy is a deconstruction of the Honest Corporate Executive; effectively making Jorgy the George Bailey to Larry's Mr. Potter.
  • Artistic License Economics: Both Jorgy and Larry in their big speeches. Jorgy talks about how the wire and cable industry will recover when the dollar is a little stronger and the yen is a little weaker; actually, that would just mean that an American company like his would get priced out of the market by its Japanese competitors. On the other hand, Larry says that the fastest way to go broke is to have an increasing share of a shrinking market; that's true if and only if the market shrinks away to nothing, which is unlikely to happen for products like wire and cable. Otherwise, having an increasing share of a shrinking market is a way to become spectacularly profitable, since it eliminates all your competitors.
    • If they were making conventional wire and cable, that would be true, but Larry's mention of fibre-optics implies that their business is communications wire and cable, which is obsolescent. The wire and cable division is losing money, and has been for years. That's how the whole situation arose in the first place.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Larry and Jorgy have fundamentally opposed views of what a business is for and how it ought to be run, but neither is wrong. One of the great things about the film is that it avoids the easy moralizing of portraying Jorgy as right and Larry as wrong. They are both right.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: A reconstruction or simply an aversion. Sure Larry's actions might seem ruthless but there's no malice behind them. He just wants to make money, which he does in an entirely legitimate and legal fashion. Neither does he have the overwhelming disdain for those beneath him that is a hallmark of the character type.
  • Even Corporate Raiders Have Standards: When the the wife of Gregory Peck's character attempts to bribe Larry with a million dollar payoff to leave them alone, Larry not only rejects it but compares taking it to stealing from orphans and widows.
  • Good Is Not Nice: When Larry asks Kate why she does not like him, she tells him that he is not nice. He all but quotes this trope in his reply:
    Since when do you have to be nice to be right?
  • Good Versus Good: See Both Sides Have a Point, supra.
  • Hello, Attorney!- Kate. See also Male Gaze
  • Hollywood Law: Kate never suggests to Jorgy some of the most common anti-takeover defenses, notably the poison pill or the crown jewel defense. The film was released in 1991, and is presumably set in the late eighties, except that by that time the takeover movement of the eighties was waning in no small part because of defenses like the poison pill. Any competent corporate attorney at that time would have suggested those defenses to her client, but Kate never does. Probably the filmmakers knew this but decided that, one, they didn't want to have to have Kate explain to the audience what a poison pill is, and, two, if Jorgy had used either of those defenses that probably would have been the end of it and there would have been no movie. The whole point of those defenses, after all, is that they can pretty much stop takeovers dead in their tracks.note 
  • Japan Takes Over the World - This is what Larry claimed to be worried about when he said he encouraged his employees to learn Japanese.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: A rare in-universe example. Larry is seen as the villain by most of the characters in the film, because he's ruthless and rich and trying to make money by breaking up a small, old-fashioned business. But when we actually listen to him, he makes the very good point that the company, though well-intentioned, has been losing its stockholders' money for years, it will eventually go bankrupt anyway due to technological obsolescence, and this is the only way for the stockholders to get some of their money back.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em - This is essentially Larry's argument to the stockholders in the climax; the company's dead, it's going to be dead with or without him, so they might as well get out with a bit of money by going with him rather than the nothing they'll get when it eventually does fold for good.
  • Male Gaze- Their first meeting (literally, a Hello, Attorney!).
  • Pet the Dog- Larry tells Kate over dinner how a cheerleader broke his heart in high school.
  • Stalking Is Love
  • Title Drop-
    • Larry claims the only thing he loves more than money is other people's money.
    • Larry uses a shell corporation in his takeover schemes called OPM. Which stands for...
    • Andrew Jorgenson also gets one in when he derisively accuses Larry of "playing God with other's people's money."
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife- Or at least hot love interest, as we're supposed to think that Penelope Ann Miller might fall for Danny DeVito.
    • In the original play, they do get married.
  • Villain Protagonist: For all intents and purposes, Larry Garfield is a hilarious and less malicious version of old Mr. Potter from It's A Wonderful Life, a greedy corporate executive driven by the accumulation of personal wealth even at the expense of destroying the economy of an entire town. However, unlike Potter or even Gordon Gekko, Larry avoids being typecast as an irredeemable villain by being a Reconstruction rather than a straight line example of the classical Corrupt Corporate Executive.
    • YMMV on whether he is a villain at all. He is certainly not at all corrupt.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Notably subverted. The film pits a wealthy corporate raider played by Danny Devito against a hard-working, old-fashioned, New England factory owner who genuinuely cares about his employees and his family business and is played by Gregory Peck. At the climax of the film, Gregory Peck makes an empassioned speech about industry and America, about honor and old-fashioned values. His opponent counters with a speech about how he can make the stockholders more money... and wins easily.
    • Although after he wins, it's heavily implied that he'll let Kate talk him into selling the company back to its employees so they can make airbags.