What to watch: ‘Worth,’ a movie about Kenneth Feinberg and the 9/11 Victim’s Fund

'Worth' is available for streaming on Netflix ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg and Stanley Tucci as Charles Wolf in a scene from "Worth." photo by Monika Lek courtesy of Netflix

Worth,” a new Netflix film, aims to tell the story of the attorney in the middle of some of the monumental circumstances following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The movie asks the impossible question: How do you put a price on a life?

“Worth” centers on attorney Kenneth Feinberg, a dispute and mediation lawyer who served as “special master” of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Feinberg led the fight for fair compensation for the victims’ families, evaluated claims, and created the fund’s administration. The fund, which Congress created, was an attempt to help grieving families and to prevent thousands of lawsuits, according to the The Washington Post.


In 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks, The New Yorker profiled Feinberg, writing:

“It is Feinberg who drafted the rules for disbursing the fund, Feinberg who is determining how the rules are administered, and Feinberg who will hear appeals from people unhappy with the way the rules have been applied. In the case of victims like the firefighters, whose ailments did not manifest themselves until days, or even weeks, after the disaster, Feinberg has the authority to decide not just how much compensation they will receive but whether they will get any at all.”

—The New Yorker

Feinberg, portrayed in the film by Michael Keaton, was born and raised in Brockton. He graduated from UMass Amherst before attending New York University Law School.

The movie follows Feinberg as he creates a meticulous plan for how to compensate grieving families but is met with the horrific, emotional stories from victims’ families. Stanley Tucci portrays Charles Wolf, a New York man who lost his wife in the attacks and is the creator of the website in outrage over Feinberg’s plan, according to reviews.

Remembering 9/11

“There are long sections of ‘Worth’ where we’re just watching and listening as people tell the stories of loved ones they lost,” critic Matt Zoller Seitz wrote in a review. “In these scenes we get a sense of the enormity of the tragedy as well as the impossibility of working out compensation in a way that will make everyone feel as if their needs were met and their feelings respected.”

The movie is inspired by Feinberg’s memoir, “What Is Life Worth?”.

“‘Worth’ is uncommonly moving by the standards of biopics and certainly by the standards of movies that risk addressing 9/11 so overtly,” Ben Kenigsberg wrote in his New York Times review.


Twenty years later after the tragedy, Feinberg reflected on the unprecedented legal territory he sorted through.

“… I do think it is altogether appropriate to pause on the 20th anniversary and review the history and success of the 9/11 fund, while acknowledging that it is, in a sense, a very un-American program,” he told Newsweek. “And in a sense an aberration, and I think the program is unlikely to be replicated.”

“Worth,” directed by Sara Colangelo, was originally featured at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival but was released last week on Netflix before the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001. It is now available for streaming.

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