Title: Money Monster
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Studio: Sony Pictures / Tristar Pictures
Director: Jodie Foster
Release Format: Theatrical
Ladies and gentlemen, please indulge me for a moment. Imagine you are a hard working citizen (not that most of you would need to “imagine”). You work 60 hours a week, driving a truck in an expensive city for minimum wage and barely have enough to take care of yourself after paying all your bills. On top of that, you have a child on the way. You’re about to be a parent and looking for the smart thing to do. So you take all of your money and put it into the stock market, in hopes that you can invest in your family’s future. Now picture this; the company you invested in loses all your money, leaving you with nothing. The hard earned cash you invested with, gone in an instant. You have nothing now because of a supposed error that the company refuses to explain. What would you do in this scenario? What would people say? How would you feel? How far would you go? How would the people responsible react to your much-deserved outrage? Money Monster is a film that plays on those questions while also delivering strong performances, a good sense of humor and an intriguing premise to boot.
Lee Gates (played by George Clooney) is the host of a hit television program called Money Monster, where he comedically offers financial advice to stockholders. When Kyle Budwell (played by Jack O’ Connell), a viewer of the show, loses all of his money due to a supposed “computer glitch”, Kyle breaks into the studio with a gun, holding Lee and his associates hostage on live television. After strapping a bomb to Lee’s chest, Kyle wants answers to where all of his money went. Though he doesn’t have all the answers for Kyle, Lee tries to help him and soon finds out that the market he once praised may be more corrupt than he once thought.
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was certain I had this movie pegged. I was groaning and saying, “My god, another one of these predictable, boring, emotionally manipulative melodramas. This is just getting old.” Needless to say, I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but the cast and the directorial presence of Jodie Foster were enough to make me shell out the $11.75 to see it. When I came out of the theater, I realized I was only half right. Money Monster is only predictable in certain moments involving some of the side characters but for the most part, it actually manages to do many unexpected things. It’s also far from boring and isn’t emotionally manipulative in the slightest. When I think emotionally manipulative moments, I think of emotional moments that aren’t earned. For example, does anyone remember the horrendous Robert Pattinson film, Remember Me? No? Good, ironically no one does. At the end of that movie, we have someone writing the date “September 11th, 2001” on a chalkboard, which immediately made me turn the movie off. That film was so desperate to get one final tear out of you that it went there. There was no build up to it, no reason for it to happen, it was just there. That, my friends, is emotional manipulation in film at its absolute finest. Seriously, if you own a copy of that film, burn it. Anyway, back to this film.
Money Monster doesn’t pull any tricks like that, even if the trailer points to the contrary. Everything the film does emotionally is well earned. You think it’s gonna follow so many cliche’s but it instead opts to do something different with those cliche’s. If you watch the trailer, there is a scene where Kyle is talking to his wife on a video monitor. Now, in any other movie, you’d probably think, “Gee, let me guess, she’s gonna talk him down, make him realize the error of his ways and the movie is over. Woopty doo! We’ve only seen this a million times.” However, that is not what happens at all. I was shocked when that scene played out, just as I was with most of this movie. Jodie Foster pays close attention not to fall into the predictable, tiresome traps that most movies of this caliber usually do. The story of Money Monster plays out in a compelling manner that kept me invested throughout the entire runtime. That’s what a good drama like this should do.
The acting is great for the most part. George Clooney gives one of his best performances in years as Lee Gates, a character who is more or less a parody of Jim Cramer, the host of the real life show Mad Money. When we first see this character in the film, he is not a good guy. He’s as much of a smug jerk in his own life as he is on television, to the point where even his own personal assistant, Patty (played by Julia Roberts), can’t stand him. The development of this character throughout the course of the movie is intriguing to say the least, as each new scene offers new layers to him that weren’t present in the beginning. He may start off as a jerk but it’s seeing him become a better person through this frightening experience that helps make him stand out. Jack O’ Connell was perfectly cast as Kyle Budwell and the way he played off Clooney made for some intense drama as well as a few funny and heartbreaking moments. He’s a character you can feel for, despite the fact that he has a gun to someone’s head throughout most of the film. Kyle is the character that feels the most human. His motives are clear, his situation dire and his emotions out of whack, as anyone in this situation would be.
Julia Roberts is a great supporting player in this movie as Patty. While the opening of the film would suggest that she hates her boss, she cares enough to stay with him throughout the entire hostage ordeal. The banter between her and Clooney is hilarious and the two share great chemistry. That’s another positive I want to say about this movie; the comedy is great. Jodie Foster made the wise choice to inject comedy into the film to offset the serious tone and never once does it feel forced or shoehorned in for cheap laughs. I can’t say every single line hits the mark but most of them do and, to me, it’s quite praiseworthy. In a serious film about corporate greed, I welcomed a little comedy here and there. Foster directs this movie at a perfect pace, building the tension even in the humorous moments. She finds a nice needed balance between drama and comedy and once again proves that she is every bit as talented behind the camera as she is in front of it.
Sadly, I can’t say everything about this movie works. Remember when I said that the film was predictable involving certain characters? Yeah, Walt Camby (played by Dominic West) and Diane Lester (played by Caitriona Balfe) are the characters I was referring to. Walt Camby is the obvious bad guy of the movie and who better to play an obvious bad guy than Dominic West. Don’t get me wrong here, I liked Dominic West in John Carter but that’s only because his hammy acting fit perfectly with the character he was playing. In Money Monster, you take one look at him and you know he’s the bad guy. You know he screwed everyone over. There’s not even an attempt from his acting to hide this fact. As a result, his character isn’t at all interesting and it’s sad since he’s the main antagonist of the picture.It’s was a bit distracting that the film paid so much attention to its central protagonists and so little attention to its antagonist.
Diane Lester starts off like she could be interesting and Caitriona Balfe does pull in a good performance. However, once the movie gets going, you know exactly why she’s there and she becomes less of a character and more of an obvious plot device. I’m not bagging on this actress at all. She was good in the role but there was almost nothing to her role. She has a conversation with Julia Roberts in the film over the phone and as soon as said conversation is over, you can pinpoint note for note what she will do for the rest of the film. Much like with Dominic West’s character, there is no attempt to hide this either. Overall, a good performance but a cut out character.
The last thing is the ending. I’m not going to spoil it but I’m very torn on it. On the one hand, I respect the film for not going with the traditional, cliche’d, happy ending, as most movies like this tend to do just that. However, in regards to what the film was building to, the very end of the film left me feeling a little empty, like there was much more they could have done with it. I honestly don’t know how to feel about it. It’s a tad underwhelming, yet aesthetically refreshing. I don’t think I’ve been this torn since the ending of How I Met Your Mother. So, in retrospect, I think you’ll either walk away loving or hating the climax of Money Monster. As for me, I remain mixed about it.
Overall, despite some character problems and a problematic climax, Money Monster remains a great time at the movies. Jodie Foster isn’t afraid to tackle a serious real world subject but she tackles it in a creative way that makes the film feel unique. The trailers make it look like a movie you’ve seen a million times but it has enough unexpected moments and even humorous moments to help it stand out. The performances are fun and memorable, the humor is great and the story is insightful and, at times, quite moving. It isn’t a perfect film, nor will it set the world on fire with its message. But the great moments in the film are too good to ignore. Money Monster is a film that is well worth your money.
- Characters: A somewhat mixed bag. The protagonist characters are quite enjoyable with proper development and time devoted to them. The main antagonist is underwhelming and too obvious.
- Cinematography: Jodie Foster has a keen eye for directing drama. From the sets to the color pallet, the film looks fantastic.
- Story: While it can seem a tad half-baked in a few spots, the film moves at a good pace that helps the narrative along. The story in itself is intriguing and socially relevant.
- Acting: George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’ Connell give wonderful performances. Dominic West is… well, it’s Dominic West, so you pretty much get what it says on the movie poster. Caitriona Balfe does well but doesn’t have much character to work with.
- George Clooney, Julia Roberts And Jack O' Connell's Performances
- Intriguing Premise
- Unexpected Moments
- Avoids Many Cliche's
- A Great Sense Of Humor
- An Underdeveloped And Boring Antagonist
- Still Mixed On The Ending / Felt Aesthetically Pleasing Yet Underwhelming At The Same Time
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.