A movie is like a parade: before you see the fullness of the procession's pomp and circumstance, you see forerunners—standard bearers—that serve as heralds and hint at what is to come. And before you see a movie, you see and hear things that frame your expectations, so you'll know what about the movie is of primary importance, and why someone should want to see it. The advance banner may well be the plot, but it could also be the cast, especially if the actors have had recent personal troubles. It might be the famous director, or the scale of its special effects.
Rarely, the advance banner of a movie bears the name of a writer, but that's the case with $9.99. The signal thing about this movie, the thing that people in-the-know find exciting, is that it is based on the short stories of Etgar Keret. Born in Israel, Keret is the author of short stories and children's books, and co-author of graphic novels. I haven't read his work, but it sounds like it is original and imaginative, from its very conception. Missing Kissinger, for example, packs 50 very short stories into 250 pages. Keret's stories are frequently surreal, and whimsical and hopeful rather than bitter. His story "Kneller's Happy Campers," for example, concerns a man who kills himself and then looks for love in the afterlife. That one was made into the graphic novel Pizzeria Kamikaze, and then into the feature film Wristcutters: A Love Story, starring Tom Waits and Will Arnett.
From that you can get a feeling for how highly Keret is regarded. The director of $9.99, Tatia Rosenthal, says, "Etgar has been referred to as the voice of our generation in Israel, and the pull I felt toward his work was immense." She praises his "bittersweet, exacting literary voice and its expression of humanism in a morally ambiguous world … the dry-witted expression of a complex reality through everyday situations, and magical realism." The film found a producer when one of Keret's fans, Emile Sherman, sought out the writer while on vacation in Tel Aviv. Sherman praises the script: "touching, funny, sophisticated, humanist."
Do you really need to know all this about the writer behind $9.99? I suspect that's the case. Those who anticipate liking it because it comes from the pen of Etgar Keret will have a deeper appreciation of the film, I think, than those for whom the name evokes a blank "Who he?"
In its general outline, the story is one you've seen before; it utilizes the convention of enclosing a wide range of people within a physical place (a stagecoach in Stagecoach, an army camp in The Dirty Dozen, a theater in The Muppets Take Manhattan) to explore various undying themes. A man loses his girlfriend, due to his immature, party-hearty character; another man acquires a girlfriend, one who has unusual tastes; a sweetly naïve young man hasn't the heart to work for a repossession company; an older man tries to be polite and helpful toward a grumpy intruder who simply moved in. The characters interact for 78 minutes, and at the end most stories are resolved, and most for the better.