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Film / Milk Money

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Milk Money is a 1994 romantic comedy film directed by Richard Benjamin, starring Melanie Griffith, Ed Harris, Anne Heche, Malcolm McDowell and Michael Patrick Carter.

Set in a Pennsylvania suburb, the film follows a group of pre-teen boys who, convinced that they're falling behind in the "battle of the sexes" at their local school, decide they want to see a naked woman, and save up their money to hire a hooker for that express purpose. The group, led by Frank Wheeler (Carter) head to the city and meet a prostitute, who identifies herself as "V" (Griffith), who accepts the deal. After the exchange, the children's bikes are stolen, forcing V to give them a ride home.

V's car breaks down in front of the home of Frank's father, Tom (Harris), who is a widower. She lies to him that she's a math tutor and he helps fix her car. Right afterwards, she learns that her pimp has been murdered — by a mob boss named Waltzer (McDowell) from whom he had stolen money. Fearing for her life (as she believes the mob will track her down to find the money), V asks the kids to hide her, which they do—in their treehouse.

The film garnered notice in the pre-production phase when its script was sold to Paramount Pictures for a record $1.1 million in 1992 — a record for a romantic-comedy spec script at that time.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The plot point about Frank failing Sex Ed is dropped once he gives his report.
  • Adults Are Useless: The teacher never actually is seen disciplining the boys for displaying V to the whole class and locking herself out in the process; nor do any of the adults or Frank's dad do much to intervene, let alone recognize the boys' lewd crusade.
  • Alliterative Title: Milk Money.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Frank's teacher, in response to him apparently not understanding the female reproductive system, orders him to make an oral presentation to his class, complete with "visual aids". This, coupled with V's arrival, prompts him to bring her in (with her wearing flesh-colored one-piece) in order to demonstrate said system, much to the shock of his teacher and the amusement of his classmates.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The Macguffin of the film is a missing briefcase of money that V's pimp, Cash, seemingly takes with him to a drug deal. When he winds up dead after the deal goes south, Waltzer starts looking for V (who took Cash's car) in order to get the money back, which motivates the third act of the film. By the end, it's revealed that Cash mistakenly took the wrong item with the money in it, and left the cash in a backpack that V discovers after she successfully gets away from the mob.
  • Catchphrase: Frank's prospective love interest, who is part of the group of girls that hangs out together, is fond of saying that V looks "so bad", presumably slang for looking good, as they all stare in awe at V after she says it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: This conversation between Tom and his son. Frank is showing his father a survey in a magazine.
    Frank Wheeler: She scores a 98 out of a possible 100, losing one point because she's a total stranger, and the other because your entire relationship is based on a lie.
    Tom Wheeler: You only lose one point for that!?
  • Contrived Coincidence: The father of Kevin, one of the three boys who hires V in the beginning, is revealed to be one of her former clients, with it being implied that she's seen him several times.
  • Cringe Comedy: The movie is filled with this, as the script seems to treat the whole scenario between the three boys and V (of which they are trying to solicit her... services to expose herself to them) is played off as precocious and juvenile instead of plain odd (or even creepy). Of particular note is this bit of dialogue:
    Tom Wheeler: Ya think you can fit him in?
    V: At his age?
    Tom Wheeler: I'm afraid if he doesn't learn it now, he's never going to.
  • Dirty Kid: The protagonists are three pre-teen boys who pool their money to hire a hooker (just to see her naked, sure, but let's be reasonable...).
  • Dumb Blonde: V leans heavily into the stereotype. She's blonde, and she makes some foolish decisions over the course of the film. Aside from meeting one of the boys' fathers and pointing out he's a past client of hers right in front of his wife, and sneaking into a school with Frank for his Sex Ed class, she also thinks that all men listen better when they're not wearing pants.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Towards the end of the film, Waltzer's boss just lets V go, even telling her to "be free", as if her choice to be a prostitute was a short-lived dalliance that he was ambivalent about.
    • Also, the kids after the whole thing is revealed.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Frank's female classmates, who he spends the first act of the movie not having the confidence to ask out to prom, end up falling over themselves to try to impress themselves in front of him when they see him hanging out with V. It's implied that the group of main female characters are incredibly jealous or incredibly interested in her, as they are shown in several scenes disparaging her while still staring at her for long periods of time. This gets brought up again when she's brought in for the Sex Ed demonstration, with the female students reacting... rather strongly to her presence.
  • Evil Brit: Waltzer. He's British, and he's a mob boss.
  • Exact Words: Frank's elementary school teacher, in response to his apparent inability to identify the female reproductive system, orders him to create an elaborate oral presentation "with visual elements" and deliver it to his class, under threat of receiving a failing grade. Frank's solution to this problem is to bring V into the class and use a marker to draw the parts of the reproductive system on her (as she's wearing a one-piece swimsuit), which apparently satisfies his teacher's demands, as Frank doesn't receive any punishment whatsoever for locking her out of the classroom while this occurs.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: The boys' plan to hire a prostitute involves them pooling the money they earned from some quick schemes and going down to the city with a bag full of money, which they openly flout in front of several people, and outright ask random women on the street if they're prostitutes. This leads to a mugger leading them into thinking he's going to lead them to one and holding them up for the money at gunpoint. The only reason nothing else happens is because he's knocked out by V, who's off-shift and exiting a vehicle.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Much of the comedy in the film is motivated by the three boys, who are completely ignorant about women and are seen as well-meaning, if not naive, in their conversations with adults.
  • Green Aesop: One of the sideplots involves Tom Wheeler, who is trying to save a wetland area (the exact reason is never elaborated on). Turns into a Chekhov's Gun by the end of the film, when V/Eve uses the money found in the backpack to help save the wetland and endear herself to Tom.
  • Harmful to Minors: When V shows her breasts, Frank covers his own eyes.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: V. She might be a hooker, but she is so nice to just about everyone, you could almost believe her story about being a math tutor.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: An especially egregious offense, since the kids haven't even hit puberty.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The three boys. Frank even breaks a number of school codes and laws in a single scene and receives no punishment, even though his teacher witnessed the whole thing. Though that may have been just a daydream of Frank's. However, see Zany Scheme.
    • V ultimately qualifies. She gets away from a life of prostitution by convincing Waltzer's boss to forget about her... but she also ends up with the Briefcase Full of Money her pimp was carrying, as she discovers it after the fact, with no one the wiser.
  • Likes Older Women: The whole plot is motivated by the three boys believing they will become "men" by soliciting a prostitute (in this case, a woman who happens to be around his father's age) to flash them, with Frank taking a particular interest in her. Towards the end of the film, he even manages to dance with her (instead of his prospective crush) at the local school's Sock Hop dance.
  • Missing Mom: Frank's mother died before he was bo— Er... just after he was born.
  • Mock Millionaire: V functionally becomes rich at the end of the film, when she discovers the Briefcase Full of Money Cash forgot to take with him. Instead of keeping it for herself, however, she learns An Aesop by buying the deed to the wetland in order to keep Tom out of jail and endear herself to him.
  • No Social Skills:
    • V isn't very discreet when meeting one of the boys' fathers and pointing out he's a past client of hers right in front of his wife.
    • The boys see nothing wrong with outright asking a lady who they suspect is a prostitute if she is one.
  • Odd Friendship: She genuinely seems to like Frank, and goes out of her way to help him solve several of his problems, including his education headaches and inability to ask his classmate out to prom. In turn, he offers up his treehouse as temporary housing, and is hell-bent on pairing her up with his widowed father.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The prostitute only identifies herself as "V", and makes no effort to give her real name to either Frank or any of the other boys, presumably out of a need to protect both her own reputation and keep her identity secret from anyone looking for her. At the end of the film, she finally identifies herself with the first name "Eve".
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: V with sunglasses is, apparently, unrecognizable to most people.
  • Precocious Crush: The film is somewhat vague on whether Frank is supposed to have feelings for V, or if he just wants her to be a surrogate mother for his family. The fact that she indulges his interest by hugging him in awkward ways and letting him dance under her skirt during the Sock Hop, in full view of the student body and teachers, doesn't help matters.
  • Professional Sex Ed: An age-appropriate version, as the boys just pay to see the hooker topless.
  • Really Gets Around: V makes no exaggeration about the fact that she is a prostitute, and has a range of clients — exemplified when (after her car breaks down and she's trying to save up money to find a place to stay), she engages in The Oldest Profession and starts hustling on the main avenue of Middleton in an attempt to find a client before Frank comes along to offer his treehouse to stay in. Later on, she runs into one of the protagonist's fathers, recognizing him as a former client, and has to make up a story (in front of his wife) about how she's also a dance teacher in addition to being a math tutor.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Taken to the extreme, seeing how three boys are able to travel to the city alone unsupervised in the hopes of meeting a prostitute, with one showing off said prostitute to his classmates in his sex ed class; none of them receive punishment for any of these offenses.
    • Roger Ebert:
      Movie Exec B: We start with three 12-year-old boys. They're going crazy because they've never seen a naked woman.
      Movie Exec A: Whatsamatter? They poor? Don't they have cable?
      Movie Exec B: Ever hear of the concept of "the Willing Suspension of Disbelief"?
  • Saving the Orphanage: The subplot about saving the town's wetlands from development.
  • Tempting Fate: Despite explicitly being on the lam from her mob boss in a nearby suburb, V makes no effort whatsoever to blend in or disguise herself, and goes out walking around the town several times (notably trying to proposition clients her first night there) and shows up to a public school for an impromptu Sex Ed demonstration. To note, this nearly gets her caught by Waltzer when he walks into the local store she's in, forcing her to utilize a Paper-Thin Disguise (a pair of sunglasses) to throw him off.
  • Tin Can You Hear Me Now: As Roger Ebert himself pointed out in his written review, this bit makes little sense given how kids have cell phones these days (although cell phones were not really commonplace back when the film first came out).
  • Toilet Humor: The film begins with the line, "You ever fart and sneeze at the same time?"
  • The Unreveal: No, we don't get to see Melanie Griffith's boobs (but two of the boys do).
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: While the boys are unrealistically stupid, the girls are able to tell V is a prostitute just by looking at her.
  • Zany Scheme:
    • The whole reason why the boys are able to "hire" V in the first place is due to performing one of these, via having fellow students pay to wear one of the boys' leather jackets and selling some of their possessions to raise the capital.
    • The quest to rescue V from Waltzer (who is functionally being held hostage by Waltzer, with a pistol, in the middle of the school dance) is to pull the fire alarm (causing a mass panic and shoving Waltzer away), pulling V out while one of the boys locks him in a janitor's closet, and commandering the car she took from Cash (with the kids driving) in order to outrun both Waltzer and a passing train.
    • While the kids might be excused because of their ignorance, and the whole thing being a comedy, when V asks Frank's dad to take his pants off before she will explain things, what little common sense the film had flew away.