Money Monster Review
TOO BIG TOO FAIL (SORT OF)
Actress Jodie Foster has had a great Hollywood role career, securing some memorable under belt from some iconic movies, including The Silence of the Lambs, Panic Room, and Inside Man. While she’s known of her theatrical roles in Hollywood, Foster has also taking a turn around the camera lens, situating herself within a director’s chair. Such movies like Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays, and The Beaver are overseeing (directorial-wise) by Foster, while she’s also directed episodes for TV shows, including Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Returning to the cinematic world of movies, Jodi Foster brings her latest directing feature to the big screen with Money Monster. Does this film “follow the money” (at the box office, I mean) or does it get lost in its own money trail?
Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the egotistical host of the financial TV program “Money Monster” (think of the cinematic version of Jim Cramer), utilizing flashy humor and gags to forecast his audience through the rough and turbulent world of stock trading. His director is Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), a longtime professional partner to Gates, who is also is planning to quit to show for brighter vocational opportunity. During a live-taping, the “Money Monster” set is interrupted by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a lowly blue collar worker who lost his money due to Lee’s inaccurate tip on a special stock opportunity by big-time business Walt Camby (Dominic West) and his company IBIS. Armed at gunpoint and strapping a bomb vest to Lee, Kyle takes over the show’s (with the show still being broadcasted worldwide) and demanding answers about his lost money, which causes NYPD law enforcement officials to take up action of this recent hostage situation. As world watches as Gates and Kyle go back and forth, with Pat trying to pacify the situation from within the station’s control room, Walt’s assistant, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), is left to represent her company during this crisis and uncovers some unsavory revelations as well.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
While I haven’t seeing any of the movies that she has directed, Jodi Foster is still a talented actress by trade. Like I said above, Foster has played some juicy roles in some movies that have become iconic or widely known (i.e. her roles as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs). I even liked her in last theatrical role as Delacourt in Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium (even though her accent was a little grating). Anyway I remember seeing the trailer for Money Monster in theaters (forgot to post it on my blog. Sorry about that) and was kind of “iffy” about seeing it, for it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. However, I decided to take a chance and saw it in theaters. My verdict? Well, Money Monster is enjoyable thriller, but sometimes gets lost in own story and within its implausible plot points.
On a technically level, Money Monster is a very well made film. From camera shots and angles, to edits, to makeup, to costume design. Foster and filmmaking behind the cameras creates a feature film that’s not necessarily artistically beautiful, but rather something well-crafted. Furthermore, with the film clocking in at around 98 minutes long, the movie is fast paced, briskly moving along as Foster directs the camera lens to be focused on the “here and now” rather than the backpedaling with flashbacks and unnecessary side stories. In short, Money Monster is well-executed (on a technically level) and is a tightly woven thriller drama. Interestingly, Money Monster capitalizes on the events of the real world, tapping into the distrust of Wall Streets, big corporate businesses, and mainstream media. This, of course, helps the film’s social commentary, but it can be overtly “heavy-handed” at times.
However, Money Monster is not a perfect film as problems do begin to arise halfway through the film. While the movie starts out strong, with Kyle’s chaotic hostage situation unfolding, the movie eventually losses focus, switching the focus away from Gates and Budwell, to the suspicious entanglement IBIS’s CEO financial breakdown. Its suppose to work, but the movie ultimately loses its momentum and “pizzazz”, devolving and almost backing-itself in the formulaic corner of mystery thriller. Thus, the ending revelations behind it all, isn’t that quite new or original. Then there’s the shifting of its tones throughout the movie, adding pockets of humorous throughout the movie. Even though its meant interject comedic levity into a, otherwise, serious condition, I felt it was a little bit odd and out of place, personally believing that distracted from the overall gravitas of the feature.
However, that pales in comparison to my biggest pet peeve about Money Monster and that is its unrealistic take of on-lookers (viewers watching the events transpire on TV) and the commentary handling by the movie’s media. In the movie, both parties gawk and basically poke fun of Gate’s situation of being held as a hostage as the movie’s events unfolded. And that seems totally unrealistic to me. If something like this happened in the real world, viewers (both regular citizens and media journalism personnel) would be utterly shock and horrified at this situation. Unfortunately, Money Monster’s movie world doesn’t comply to that rule as it laughs it off for some funny quips and scenarios, while it loses its authenticity of being realistic thriller.
As for the cast of Money Monster, Foster was selected a talented group of individuals. However, while all are very talented actors and actresses, some their movie’s corresponding characters are flat or generic in the thriller genre. Naturally, the big stars of the movie (and a big-selling point for it as well) are “A-list” stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts, respectfully playing Lee Gates and Patty Fenn. Clooney’s Gates goes down a familiar path, so it really isn’t a something new per say, but Clooney’s acting ability makes the character enjoyable to watch, handling the arrogance and overall “smarmy” bravado, while showing moments of vulnerability with talented ease. Roberts’s character of Patty is shown as the “real” brain behind the Money Monster TV show, providing Roberts with enough screen time to give meaningful character that’s both confident and capable (or at least trying to project it) of “handling” the situation (whether it’s the actually Money Monster show or the hostage / standoff with Kyle). It also helps that both Clooney and Roberts have great chemistry together, even though that most of the film sees the pair conversing with each other via a earpiece.
Behind Clooney and Roberts, Unbroken star Jack O’Connell delivers a fine performance as Kyle Budwell, a “down on his luck” type of guy who acts as the catalyst for the movie’s events to proceed forward. Of course, his pairing with Clooney’s Gates is some of the film’s best scenes as the two of them “butt heads” throughout the film. In more supporting roles, HBO’s The Wire alum Dominic West and Starz’s Outlander protagonist Caitriona Balfe play IBIS’s CEO Walt Camby and the company’s Chief Communications Officer Diane Lester. Like I said before, while both West and Balfe give solid performance in their respective roles, their characters in Money Monster aren’t well-rounded and are, for the most part, predictable flat caricatures of those commonly found in these types of movies. Coinciding with that, the only other actor that’s worth noting is Breaking Bad alum Giancarlo Esposito, who gives what he can to an otherwise stock character role of a seasoned police officer.
Should you invest, unload, or not trust in the advice of Wall Street experts (with your money) are some of the basic questions that Money Monster asks. Jodi Foster’s newest film is a well-directed and well-acted presentation that offers some enlightening social POV commentary on today’s big corporate America and the media-style of Wall Street moneymaking. Unfortunately, the movie falls short with too much social commentary and unrealistic / unfocused plot beats, making the movie feel overly blunt with “message” (and not in tried and true compelling way) and formulaic in nature. Personally, I felt that Money Monster was okay (good, but not great) with some notable problems, so I would give it a “iffy-choice” at best. Like film’s main protagonist in the movie, Money Monster isn’t as cunning nor savvy as it wants to be.
3.2 Out of 5 (Iffy-Choice)
Released On: May 13th, 2016
Reviewed On: May 14th, 2016
Money Monster is rated R for language throughout, some sensuality and brief violence