REVIEW: Money Monster
George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…an intelligent movie…
Hollywood used to make films like Money Monster quite a bit, but now they’re getting much farther and fewer between. “We were really lucky it got picked up,” director, Jodie Foster, said at Monday night’s Australian premiere in Sydney. “Why these mid-range movies are very rare now is because they aren’t franchises; they are original content, original stories, and they are really about characters and emotions.” And she’s right. The story is original, and more than that, it is refreshing to watch an action drama that’s not part of some six-installment production schedule.
Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a cheesy, bombastic TV personality whose popular financial network show has made him the money wiz of Wall Street. But after he hawks a high tech stock that mysteriously crashes, an irate investor (Jack O’Connell) takes Gates, his crew, and his ace director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) hostage live on air. Unfolding in real time, Gates and Fenn must find a way to keep themselves alive while simultaneously uncovering the truth behind a tangle of big money lies.
Money Monster moves very quickly, so you really have to pay attention, and that might have something to do with the film being shot in real time. It’s rapid, even slightly schizophrenic in parts, where you’re having to shift gears as much as the characters to catch and respond to each character inflection; it’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of scenario.
While the script is strong, the real strength of Money Monster is in the cast. Clooney is certainly predictable but no less lovable or charismatic, delivering a tight performance as a narcissistic hedonist forced to confront his choices in a very public pressure cooker. Roberts is simply stellar. It’s always great to see her in a non-romantically charged role, as she’s given open highway to really let rip in exploring more of her range. Her performance is even more impressive when you consider that for 90% of the film, she is acting in isolation. Her character, Patty, is mostly in the control room throughout the film, while Clooney is on set, and while most of her dialogue is with him, they are never actually in the same room; she’s in his ear as the director of the show. While Clooney and Roberts are a pretty safe bet, the real breakthrough of the film is emerging English talent, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, 71), delivering an authentic portrayal of a working class Queens local, struggling to live in a rigged economy. His character, Kyle Budwell, is a nervous ball of rage, and is exhilarating to watch.
There are sticky moments, and some sub-plots that seem a bit hackneyed, but they are forgivable largely due to the success of the cast and the fact that Foster openly indulges in the fact that Money Monster is a mainstream genre film. And while that’s certainly true, it’s also an intelligent movie that is technically sophisticated, that demands something a bit more from the audience, and in fact, asks the audience to work a bit harder.
There are high-level themes at play here: Wall Street corruption, our technology dependence and saturation, the dangers of info-tainment journalism, and the effect of all of the above on the larger global community. They’re heavy hitting ideas no doubt, but Foster handles them with the perfect level of insight. All things considered, Money Monster is a far more rewarding experience than your typical “things go bang” genre pic, and a credit to the killer cast and production team under Foster’s steady and playful direction.