'Money Monster' review: George Clooney, Julia Roberts are the best thing about this half-baked film
It’s a big challenge for a film to be both smart and entertaining.
Generally it’s any one of those two parameters that eventually makes its way to the movie screens. Recent films like Margin Call and The Big Short did well by building a fairly convincing bridge between both those aspects. Money Monster, directed by Jodie Foster, doesn’t quite hit the smart notes as those two films, but is still watchable entertainment with a social issue at the helm.
In the film, George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a smart-ass and arrogant host of a finance based TV show that gives stock tips and other BS deals with sensationalist pegs. Kind of like a handsome Donald Trump.
His producer Patty (Julia Roberts) cannot stand his smug behavior and wants to move on to other things. Things take a turn when on one live TV broadcast a truck driver named Kyle (Jack O Connell) shows up with a suicide bomb vest and takes Lee hostage. He demands to keep the camera rolling because he wants to tell the world about assholes like Lee and others on Wall Street who ruin people’s lives.
But this is not just a hostage drama. There’s quite a bit of hilarious satirical undercurrent throughout the film, highlighting the drudgery that Wall street generally involves in. As Kyle’s demands and vigilantism take center stage things often transcend into ridiculous territory, but Foster’s direction makes it all amusing enough to take it at face value. It helps that you have immensely likable stars like Clooney and Roberts to sell you a story that is pretty high handed on a conceptual level.
The dialogues are snappy too, and both Clooney and Roberts do well with the pulpy material. So if you’re in for an entertaining movie with big stars, a sliver of real world problem and a Bollywood-esque solution to the problem, Money Monster will please you.
The problem with the film is that there’s nothing beyond the sliver of satire to make you revisit it again or even recommend it to anyone. The other issue is the casting of O Connell who is just too recognizable and handsome for someone who is supposed to be a down and out truck driver. His portrayal comes across more as a poor stereotype than someone with real issues.
His American accent is gratingly fake and his shouting and screaming do even little to add any credibility. For all the film’s vigilantism and outcry it’s quite simplistic in execution, and mostly white washes over themes which need more nuance to be discussed. Are we supposed to condemn Wall Street folks entirely or campaign for a way to make them change the way they work? The film doesn’t really specify, and we’re merely presented rapid fire comedy in the midst of drama.
Those interested in the situation portrayed in this film are advised to watch a far more interesting movie which follows a similar thread – Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon. And those who would like to explore more of Foster’s work behind the camera can check out episodes of the excellent Orange is the New Black.