Eddie (David Wenham) and his wife Tanya (Frances O’Connor) argue one morning about money. She has lost her contract at the university, and hasn’t been able to tell him. He has always been the practical one of the two, but that’s not how she sees his role. When she smacks their daughter Abbi (Johanna Hunt-Prokhovnik), Eddie objects. Tanya realises he knows about her lost job.
This scene precedes Eddie losing his own job, although the movie actually opens with him being escorted off the premises of his office by a security guard. There are many time shifts in the script, which gives the films a more free-style tone. There’s a similar time signature with Tom White, another film about a man on the way down in contemporary Melbourne, released almost a year earlier. Both films share a concern for social disintegration in Australian society, although with different outcomes. Three Dollars is a much more optimistic film in the end, because the downfall of Eddie is largely caused by his refusal to compromise his principles. Late in the film, he briefly becomes an apprentice derelict. He glimpses the place that Tom White spends most of his time in, but Eddie is able to pull himself back from the brink of complete emotional collapse. The point of Three Dollars is eventually that he can’t be broken by what life throws at him.