Michael Keaton, left, and Stanley Tucci in a scene from ”Worth.” IMDb photo

“When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.” H.L. Menken

In the film at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Kenneth Feinberg, a well-known successful Washington attorney, is aboard a train when the two terrorist planes hit the World Trade Center.

He sits reading a newspaper when the other passengers start getting news reports and rush to the windows.

In the distance, Feinberg sees the rising smoke of the attack. His expression tells it all.

The film takes liberties on events as the real Feinberg had just finished teaching a law class in Philadelphia when he saw students gathering around a TV as the first plane hit the World Trade Center, then the second plane hits, and then another slammed into the Pentagon.

As Sara Colangelo’s and Max Bornenstein’s “Worth” opens, Congress has appointed Feinberg (Michael Keaton) to lead the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Feinberg, as Keaton plays him, is an implacable, vigorous man, intense, dedicated, no nonsense workhorse. Feinberg practically salivates at the chance to glue all the broken ends together. He goes at it like a sports coach, with a trophy at stake.

The job as viewers see it, is practically impossible and would take a Solomon to bring it together.

So why was Kenneth Feinberg, family man and beloved boss, a numbers man and data dragon given the job? Will he find the empathy required?

He and his team are given the mission to allocate all financial resources to the surviving families of the tragedy, the first respondents, the tenants of both towers.

Feinberg chooses his head of operations, Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), to confront the task, to reach into the myriad broken hearts of those left behind.

The bottom line? Feinberg’s book, and this powerful, heartbreaking tale gives us the role of bystanders, and it will take courage to sit beside him as he meets the survivors, the wives, parents, children left to make choices.

Feinberg and Co. must determine the worth of a life. Yes, the worth of a lost hero and loved one.

These souls will descend upon the committee that will determine the value of their lost loves. How much, it’s asked, are Jimmy and Jane, Bobby and Bernice, worth in dollars and cents.

Feinberg will meet Charles Wolf (the incredible Stanley Tucci), a community organizer who lost his wife.

Tucci, Ryan and dozens of others will inhabit our screens as part of a heartbreaking cast, to an opera of pathos, all filling cold metal chairs, rubbing aching hands, patting shattered hearts, covered with winter’s light pouring through dirty windows.

We have now marked the 20th anniversary of that historic morning, and people are still dying from the effects of that attack.

“Worth,” a powerful, heart-breaking and masterfully painted 2020 biographical film, now streaming on Netflix, is based on Kenneth Feinberg’s book “What is Life Worth.”

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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