Dennis is a lonely man, living by himself, and his only regular contact is with his overbearing mother. Dennis also has a head that looks like a bag of money, which makes him feel shy and inhibited, and also makes him the butt of many jokes.
But then Dennis goes on a date with a magazine cartoonist named Catherine, and the pair make a romantic connection. But when he finds himself the subject of a joke on a national scale, he starts to question if he’ll ever find someone to connect with at all.
Written and directed by Patrick O’Brien, this quirky romantic short has an absurdist premise, with the main character with a literal bag of money for a head, and the film finds humor in how people — including a homeless man, played by punk legend Henry Rollins — react to Dennis’s difference. But with its blend of melancholy, yearning and vulnerability, it’s also a deeply romantic film that will resonate with anyone who has felt despondent or anxious in their search for someone to love and accept them as they are.
The storytelling takes a low-key approach to its absurdist premise, incorporating it matter-of-factly into its dim, muted naturalistic cinematography. The approach and tone are not unlike the work of early Spike Jonze, which also incorporates bizarre twists on reality in ways that invite comment on societal norms and conventions. Dennis’s head allows the narrative to examine, with sometimes mordant humor and imagination, how we treat differently-abled and differently-bodied people, and how the world at large often comments on them as if they were objects of fascination and not people.
Dennis himself has a very everyman quality that feels very relatable, especially in his loneliness and desire for connection. Actor Chris Grace gives an excellent, sympathetic performance, and his ease and fluency with voice, gestures and body language more than makes up for the lack of conventional facial expressions from having his face covered as a performer. The scene when Dennis and Catherine make a connection is sweetly touching, which makes its disastrous denouement all the more understandably heartbreaking — and even dangerous — for Dennis.
But happily for Dennis and viewers invested in his story, “Moneybag Head” ends on a heartwarming note that feels genuinely earned, especially after all that Dennis has been through. Yet the sweet ending avoids feeling too saccharine because the story never shies away from how indifferent or even cruel the world can be to those who don’t quite fit in, and how debilitating it is to be judged quickly without any room for complexity. In such a context, it celebrates connection as the minor miracle that it is.