Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“Money Monster”– Movie Review


This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new drama, “Money Monster” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and directed by Jodie Foster.


When a poor man loses his life savings in a Wall Street investment, he takes hostage the television host whom he feels gave him poor advice – but when it turns out they’ve both been swindled, can they bring the real culprit to justice?


Lee Gates (Clooney) is The Money Monster – or perhaps more accurately, he’s the host of a television show called “Money Monster”.  As the controversially garish star of a show that frequently blurs the lines between information and entertainment, his success has caused his massive ego to grow out of control, resulting in considerable friction between himself and his long-time producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts), who is secretly planning her exit strategy.  On his show, Gates provides viewers with stock tips and various investment advice.  One of his telecasts included a solid buy recommendation for a financial services company called Ibis, which showed considerable growth potential. 

Kyle (Jack O'Connell), a blue collar deliveryman whose means and education are both limited, took Gates’ recommendation to heart.  With a $60,000 inheritance from his recently deceased mother, Kyle poured the entire amount into Ibis, hoping that it would provide him a secure future upon retirement.  Unfortunately for Kyle and his fellow Ibis investors, the stock took an unexpected downturn; its price dropped from $75 per share to only $8 with little sign it would reverse quickly, if ever.  When questioned about this unforeseen disaster, executives at Ibis would merely say the issue occurred due to a glitch in the software that handles its trades. 

Furious over having lost his nest egg, Kyle sneaks into Gates’ studio during a live broadcast, armed with both a handgun and explosives.  Interrupting that day’s episode of “Money Monster”, Kyle holds both the host and his show hostage until and unless he can get better answers about how such a seemingly secure company could somehow manage to lose $80 million in investors’ money.  As Patty reaches out to Ibis executives to have a representative address Kyle’s concerns and save everyone’s life, she soon learns the company’s CEO may have personally manipulated his company’s fortunes for nefarious purposes.  With that being the case, can Patty risk angering Kyle even further once he discovers the truth or can she and Gates find a way to turn the tables in such a way as to arrive at a safe outcome? 


Acolytes of Vermont Senator and 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will likely flock to see “Money Monster” because it resonates on the theme that the United States economy is a rigged system that benefits only the very rich while punishing The Average Joe.  However, whether or not they will like the movie is an entirely different matter indeed.  The trite dialog and unlikely situations in this film render pedestrian entertainment at best, only given credibility by virtue of the big names attached to the project. 

The film’s show “Money Monster” is clearly based on CNBC’s “Mad Money” with Clooney’s Gates being a considerably more glamorous version of its host Jim Cramer.  The twinkle of that glamor is soon tarnished by a rather drab script with a suspect set-up and predictable ending.  In this post-Great Recession era where movies like “Wolf Of Wall Street” and “The Big Short” are venting the anger and resentment of the hoi polloi who were victimized by greedy Wall Street financiers in the recent past, “Money Monster” will probably not be remembered as among one of the best of that ilk. 

Those expecting to see a romantic involvement between Clooney and Roberts will be severely disappointed; instead, their characters are more like collaborators and effectively business partners who speak in a shorthand only they understand – as such, “Money Monster” is more of a buddy movie for these two mega-stars and any sense of love between them is purely platonic.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with this – except for the director’s uneasy presentation of Clooney’s character as sleazy by tarring him as quite the lothario. 

Money Monster (2016) on IMDb

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