MONEY MONSTER ½
R, 98 mins.
2016, R, 98 mins.
George Clooney as Lee Gates / Caitriona Balfe as Diane Lester / Jack O'Connell as Kyle Budwell / Julia Roberts as Patty Fenn / Olivia Luccardi as Arlene / Dominic West as Walt Camby / Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Marcus Powell / Emily Meade as Molly
Directed by Jodie Foster / Written by Alan DiFiorema and Jim Kouf
MONEY MONSTER is an incredibly frustrating film to sit through.
all the more frustrating considering that it stars multiple Academy Award nominated and winning actors and is directed by Jodie Foster, no stranger
to Oscar glory herself. The
talent in this thriller is enough to get any viewer on board, not to
mention that the film deals with some highly relevant themes that tap into
our collective fears regarding corporate and socioeconomic evil.
There are so many positives going into MONEY MONSTER that it’s an
absolute shame that this film utterly implodes under the weight of its
illogical narrative. I’ve never seen a film
begin with so much unbridled promise only to
then devolve into silly implausibility in its last 20 minutes like
MONEY MONSTER does.
a shame, because Foster has gathered together the likes of Hollywood A-listers
like George Clooney and Julia Roberts, not to mention strong up-and-coming
actors like Jack O’Connell (UNBROKEN
and 71) into the fray. Beyond
that, the film tries, as much as it can, to be a scathing indictment of
duplicitous Wall Street business practices that make 99 per cent of the
country perpetually poor with the remaining one per cent reaping all of
the benefits. MONEY MONSTER
also positions itself as a fairly savvy portrait of the modern network
newsroom, creating a fly-on-the-wall portrait of what it takes to put a
live show on the air. All in
all, Foster’s film is an unusual, but interesting hybrid of NETWORK, DOG
DAY AFTERNOON, and the more recent THE BIG
SHORT, but where her film falls ultimately and disappointingly
short is on thoughtful commentary, not to mention that the screenplay’s
outlandish machinations pretty much betray its very topical themes.
though, is impeccably well cast here as a Lee Gates, a rather flamboyantly
arrogant host of a popular financial news show called Money Monster, a live
program featuring him dispensing daily stock picks with a dizzying array
of sound effects, info banners, and sometimes bizarre costumes and song
and dance numbers with backup dancers.
Lee is one of those smug a-holes that knows he’s a smug a-hole,
which makes him a particularly large handful for his long-time producer
Patty (an equally well cast Roberts), who basically serves the role as
behind-the-scenes quarterback to everything Lee does on the show, ensuring
that the program runs smoothly and efficiently…no matter what
preposterous thing Lee does or says.
Despite Lee’s aggressively loud mouthed and in-your-face approach
to unleashing daily financial wisdom, he’s respected and watched by many.
and Patty’s working lives change forever when a mysterious deliveryman
arrives on their set during a live broadcast.
Patty initially believes that this is the product of poor security
and a hopelessly naïve courier greenhorn that doesn’t know what he’s
doing. Unfortunately, within
seconds of arriving on set the man whips out a gun and points it right at
Lee’s head, immediately tipping off everyone in front of and behind the
camera that this guy is no mere delivery man.
His name is Kyle (O’Connell) and he quickly reveals that he also
has a suicide vest laden with C4, which he forces the deeply
distressed Lee to wear. Kyle makes his motives abundantly clear to all: he wants Lee
to explain why he recommended (on a previous show) investing heavily into
Ibis Clear Capital as a “sure thing.”
Kyle apparently put his family’s life savings ($64,000) into
Ibis, only to discover to his horror that the company’s stock
horrendously plummeted overnight…without any rational explanation being
given by the CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West).
Kyle and millions of Americans lost everything because of Lee’s
stock tip, leaving Kyle desperately wanting answers on live TV…with
Lee’s life hanging in the balance.
mentioned, the cast of MONEY MONSTER is uniformly superb and work so well
off of one another. Clooney’s
unparalleled charisma as an established movie star lends itself well to
playing the slick and smarmy pundit.
Even though he has very few literal face-to-face scenes with his
co-star, his interplay with Roberts' Patty has an effortless chemistry; they
feel like a completely authentic TV show host/producer tandem.
Roberts perhaps has the most thankless job of any of the actors,
seeing as she has to be a figure of calm and headstrong authority while
spending most of the film sitting in a darkened control room. O’Connell
brings the requisite amount of hostile intensity, wounded vulnerability,
and moral confusion to his role as hijacker that feels like he has
been royally screwed (and he has), but there are times when even the
tremendously assured British actor struggles a bit with a thick New Yawker
MONSTER creates such an overwhelming sensation of newsroom verisimilitude
early on that it all but depressingly unravels when Kyle’s hostage plan
plays out, which careens down one inane development and twist after
another. The film strains
even modest credulity at times. It’s
never truly plausible, for example, that a lone nut like Kyle would be
able to so easily access the set of a show like Money Monster, let alone
make it through the viewfinder of network security officials.
He pretty much just strolls on in without much of a fuss.
To show an even greater lack of respect for the story’s would-be
provocative themes and ideas, the manner that MONEY MONSTER sabotages
realism completely in its final act is positively headshaking.
Without giving too much away, Kyle’s hostage drama – broadcasted
live to the masses – eventually spills out into the streets of Manhattan,
and it becomes increasingly difficult to take the events seriously at all.
As the film egregiously rushes towards an inevitable climax with
the Ibis CEO it’s more of a movie manufactured moment than one that
feels dramatically convincing. In
the end, nonsensical movie characters that behave using stupid movie logic
and not earthbound logic populate Foster’s movie.
is MONEY MONSTER really trying to say as well? It has so much that it wants to get off of its chest
regarding financial malfeasance on a drastic, unchecked scale, scornful
Wall Street business dealings, mental illness, the dangers of playing fast
and loose with the modern stock market, and so forth.
Mournfully, the interminable possibilities for intelligent
commentary here are all but null and void, seeing as the whole attack on
American capitalism run afoul is essentially reduced down to painting the
Ibis CEO as a one-note and simplistically rendered villain that’s driven
purely by individual greed. Even
though the whole system, so to speak, fostered a climate for him to exert
his diabolical plans to rob people of their money, MONEY MONSTER
essentially becomes less a widespread and stinging attack of a corrupt
system and more about the chicanery of a solitary man.
Of course, Kyle (who began the film as a psychopathic loose cannon)
is unavoidably set up as a martyr-like hero in all of this.
The black and white portrayal of all of the parties and
issues here ends up being kind of laughable.
It pains me to say this, but I’m really starting to think that Foster is perhaps a far better actress than she is a filmmaker. Recent efforts like the strangely wrongheaded THE BEAVER in 2011 and now MONEY MONSTER kind of proves that sentiment. She remains one of the pre-eminent actresses of her generation, a career typified by shrewd project choices that echoes her intelligence as a performer. She’s a remarkably smart woman that surrounds herself by equally smart performers in MONEY MONSTER, but her latest directorial effort is simply not smart at all. The film’s moral rage is palpable and its timely themes are thought provoking, but the whole enterprise is heavy handed, wildly uneven, and lacks keen insight into its subject matter.