I was probably 14 or 15 years old when I was first introduced to Stephanie Plum, the beloved lingerie-saleswoman-turned-bounty-hunter heroine in Janet Evanovich’s series of best-selling murder mysteries set in Trenton. And those novels became my guilty pleasure: I would borrow each new Plum mystery from Princeton Public Library, sit by myself laughing out loud for an hour or two while I read the book from cover to cover, and then wait eagerly for Stephanie’s next adventure to hit the shelves.
So it was with mixed feelings that I went to see “One for the Money,” the newly released film adaptation of the series’ first novel. The movie received what could charitably be described as poor reviews, and with Katherine Heigl as its biggest and only major star, “One for the Money” the movie did not seem destined to match the novel’s success.
And the movie wasn’t great. Stephanie, recently fired from Macy’s lingerie department and now broke, takes a job as a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler). The plot centers on Stephanie’s hunt for Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a cop accused of killing an unarmed man. Morelli has a history with Stephanie that dates back to their high school days, and that sexual tension is revisited as Stephanie ultimately works to prove Morelli’s innocence. The acting is mediocre; the romance and comedy not strong enough to hold the audience’s attention between brief action scenes.
But I didn’t go to “One for the Money” for an Oscar-worthy cinematic experience, and neither did most of the viewers in a crowded Market Fair theater. We wanted to see its representation of Trenton, the setting for all 23 works in the Plum franchise.
The movie — shot in a suburb of Pittsburgh — opens in “the Burg,” the Chambersburg section of Trenton, home to Stephanie’s parents and grandmother (Debbie Reynolds). Stephanie describes it as an everybody-knows-everybody neighborhood of blue-collar, Italian-American families in modest dwellings.
You have to look carefully to find other flashes of Trenton. A shot of the “Trenton Makes, The World Takes” bridge and a truck from the Italian People’s Bakery appear during the opening credits. Jimmy Alpha, a gym owner Stephanie encounters, is flipping through a Trentonian newspaper — complete with a page six girl — when she first approaches him.
Most noticeably, the famous — and recently closed — DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies appears across the street from the fictional Sal’s butcher shop. Note, however, that it’s Hancock Street in the movie, but Hudson Street in the real world.
The end credits do credit the true Trenton-area natives who helped make the Trenton of the film more authentic, including Trenton-based photographer T.M. Rago, whose photo of the “Trenton Makes” bridge appears in the movie; artist Marge Chavooshian, who has lived and worked in the Glen Afton part of Trenton for more than 50 years, and whose painting, “The True American,” appears in the movie; Taneisha Nash Laird, executive director of the Trenton Downtown Association; Candace Fredericks, marketing manager at Wyvern Consulting in Trenton and director of marketing and communications at the Trenton Community Music School; and Jim Carlucci, freelance editor, the Trenton Downtowner and managing member at TrenTours, which offers a one-hour driving tour, “Stephanie Plum’s Trenton.”
Without them, “One for the Money” would have been another forgettable romantic comedy in Anycity, USA.