“Money Monster” Review

moneymonstersmallMoney Monster (2016) 

Money Monster” is Jodie Foster’s latest feature film starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney and centering on TV presenter Lee Gates (George Clooney) who is taken hostage on the set of his financial TV show “Money Monster”. Alongside his TV crew, including producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Gates’s role becomes to decipher strange demands of a hostage-taker (Jack O’Connell), while keeping his crew alive. However, while the hostage-taking is taking place, the attention rapidly shifts from an individual bad action of upstaging and threatening a TV crew to a more global, fundamental and inherent flaw of a financial services institution.

At the first glance, “Money Monster” has a lot going for it: (i) interesting story; (ii) interesting director; and (iii) good actors/acting.

  • Interesting story? It is refreshing to see a new spin on a hostage-scenario movie where a TV presenter is kidnapped live on air. It may not be realistic, but watching any hostage-taking is also interesting from the psychological point of view: what are people capable of given a life-threatening situation? How do they react? What do they do? What motivates them first? In that sense, few scripts can boast both: a psychologically interesting, fairly original premise included in a well-thought out screenplay, and “Money Monster” appears to have both[1]. Moreover, there is a nice moral-story spin to the film: we see a “bad” guy appealing to the public for moral support in fighting a rich financial institution, a kind of “Wall Street” vs. ordinary people battle.[2] However, this is, of course, where the movie inevitably fails in its purpose: not in the hostage-taking scenario per se, but in its critique of a global financial institution. It is just not that convincing, and as the film slides to its end, the audience cares less and less about what will happen in the end/to the characters.[3] This may also be because the audience could not really connect to/associate with any of the main characters in the movie, and it is still harder to sympathise with the hostage-taker despite his “good” intentions. George Clooney tries to be likeable, but it feels like he has ditched his arrogant self in “Up in the Air” (2009) only for a few hours at best, and Julia Robert’s character is too distant to even contemplate.
  • Interesting director? Jodie Foster is the director of “Money Monster”, and when it comes to psychologically intense and disturbing dramas/thrillers, she is not the one to be scared away. Foster previously directed “The Beaver” (2011), a misunderstood and imperfect movie, which has one distinctive thing going for it: the originality in scenario, as it juggles conflicting psychiatric tendencies. In “Money Monster”, Foster also knows how to present intensity and to keep her audience on their toes (well, at least at the beginning of the film). “Money Monster”’s first half also takes place in one room, making it similar to “one place” movies, such as “Identity” (2003) and “Devil” (2010), and, arguably, this is where the film truly shines – at the beginning, before a major conspiracy is uncovered from the hostage event.
  • Good actors/acting? The cast of “Money Monster” is superbly fit for their respective roles, and the chemistry between George Clooney and Julia Roberts is good[4]. Roberts’ character Patty Fenn is a more serious of the two, who constantly tries to keep Clooney’s character Lee Gates grounded. Roberts does this job very good. However, yet again, Clooney seems to have changed his character very little from “Up in the Air” or “Gravity (2013): he is once again here a happy-go-lucky guy with 1000 words per minute and a “people’s” charm, ready to bewitch anyone to part with their hard-earned cash.

An interesting story, equipped director and a stellar cast…what could go wrong in “Money Monster”? Well, unfortunately, quite a lot. The biggest problem in the movie is the unfortunate deviation from the purpose: the film tries “to play many roles” and it backfires. The movie tries to be a politically-driven financial satire and a hostage-taking thriller, while also trying to showcase Clooney and Roberts to the greatest extent possible. The viewer does not really know what to think by the end of the film – but the bottom line is: he does not even care anymore. If “Money Monster” had an 80% viewer support at the beginning of the film, the movie would only have a 20% support by the time the credits roll. The last scenes, which are supposed to be amusing, are confusing and inappropriate, and the last 25 minutes of the movie lack even vague attempts at realism. Despite its positive qualities: intensity, a fairly quick pace and some nice twists, the film’s plot also suffers: as was said above – it is far-fetched (for example, there are police officers who are nonchalantly engaged in a human survival prediction analysis before storming the building), and also displays little consideration for an even progression.

Overall, “Money Monster” has a very interesting premise, all the good intentions of pulling off an intriguing and complex thriller, and a dedicated crew of good actors. However, what eventually and inevitably fails the movie is the inability to maintain one goal, trying to uncover too many layers to the plot, and having little emotional connection with the audience in the film’s second half. The result? A decent entertainment, but no second-watch. 6/10

[1] Money Monster” was included in a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year (source: IMDB).

[2] The movie is also a nice satire of the public perception on a public tragedy – a satire of the public itself and its often inappropriate reaction to terrible actions going on around them. 

[3] For those into “hostage-taking” movies, they may as well check out French “The Assault” (2010), a movie based on a true story of the 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 by Algerian Islamic fundamentalist terrorists and the raid which followed. The gem here is the true story the movie is based on: at the time it was considered one of the most successful rescue operations in history (in the context of hostage-taking).

[4]Money Monster” marks the fourth collaboration between Clooney and Roberts: previously they were cast together in “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (2002) and in “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004).

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