“Money Monster”, in what has to be the oddest title for a film in recent memory, we get mega stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunited for the first time since their 2001 stylishly slick “Ocean Eleven” collaboration, along with Jack O'Connell (Unbroken), Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito and Caitriona Balfe under the directorial guidance of 2 time Academy Award Winner Jodie Foster in a news worthy, modern and high stakes story of a common working man going after a corporate Wall Street big shot.
Told in a 24 hour real time frame work, we find from the onset George Clooney in the role of a popular cable TV star named ‘Lee Gates” who is the host of a daily popular financial cable show. His personality is a personality mix of the hyper enthusiastic all things are rosy CNBC’s Jim Cramer and a soap opera-rish brash, bombastic and smug persona similar to WWE promotor - owner Vince McMahon. He’s a Barnum - Bailey TV salesman for the modern working man investor.
One morning while going through the paces of selling his daily stock recommendations under the control of his trusted and long time studio producer “Patty Fenn” played by Julia Roberts, a mysterious irate investor named “Kyle” (O’Connell”) sneaks into the studio with a gun and explosives to take Gates, his crew, and his ace producer Fenn all hostage on live TV. What happens next is the unfolding of a story of Kyle wanting an explanation of how he lost his $60,000 savings on what Lee had previously guaranteed was a stock tip that was better than “any savings account”. But it wasn’t safe and Kyle wants all those involved with both the financial show and the company he invested in named “IBIS” to tell him the truth of what appears to be tangle web of big money lies.
MY REVIEW: “Money Monster” has a lot of quick and witty banter as we are invited to go down a well-intended path of something meaningful. The only real question is do we enjoy – do we learn from the journey with its equal execution mix of drama and humor to a basic truth we already know. And if the plot premise wasn’t enough of a clue to what we will discover, we can also tell from just looking at the obviously deliberate casting of a smarmy and less than handsome IBIS CEO “Walt Camby”. We know he has done something crooked to rig and steal the millions of his investor’s money, the only real question is what? Thus the viewer is left with how much melodramatic jousting, banter, emotional seesawing, contentious wordplay, bickering and guns pointing do we you have to listen to get to a hopefully substantive climatic dramatic conclusion during the films 1:38 minutes running time.
“Money Monster” does have some admirable moments, mostly when it focuses on Kyle’s moral and emotional pleas of being understood about his desperation to finding the truth of how he lost his money. Essentially he is the macro embodiment of real life people like you and me who believe wealthy people always seem to get all the breaks in life while real working people seemingly just always get broken in two. But the problem I had with “Money Monster” is it’s narrative as Director Foster treats the subject matter of corporate greed purely as something for us to be comfortably entertained by rather than to be dealt with in a strong probative analysis of how white collar crimes are real and very destructive to decent people. We get scenes that try make us feel something raw and unnerving that ultimately only pander by the use of procedurally smart cliché speeches that reveal nothing that we don’t already know or feel. “Money Monster” offers no extraordinary reflective crescendo on a modern society, financial markets or Wall Street. Instead we just get a by the book conclusion to a movie about Wall Street money and Wall Street lies.
While MM is a very streamline commercial movie in its storytelling, it is crisp in its pacing, never boring and is worth seeing. And while you will not have any lasting memorable moments from the film, you will be entertained.
As performances goes, Julia Roberts shines as “Patty Fenn”. She is really engaging and dynamic in her role as the inside the ring referee aka “Producer” to the on air hostage situation delivering solid work from beginning to the very end. Also Clooney gets the most out of his character though his evolution from on air slim ball, to victim, to eventually the honest conciliator - arbitrator for a greater good.
“Money Monster” breaks no new ground, but it is a solid reminder of how some people have lost faith, lost trust and lost confidence in institutions and society as a whole, where one had only to be a person who is decent, honest and hard working to be assured a virtuous path to achieving the American Dream. Now the narrative suggests that the more profitable virtue to embody for personal prosperity and a better life is the currency of telling the better lie while using someone else’s money.
3 -1/4 Stars