The Buck Stops Here : "Money Monster" (2016) Movie Review
Money Monster, released May 13, 2016, is Jodie Foster's fourth directorial outing and stars Goerge Clooney & Julia Roberts. The plot is fairly simple ; a financial TV show host (Clooney) is taken hostage on live TV by a frustrated shareholder (Jack O'Connell) whose life went awry after he followed his advice. He wants answers and it is up to the show's director (Roberts) to solve the problem from backstage. The movie, despite its simple premise, touches deeper themes than what we might expect from an action thriller, notably the impact of the lack of financial knowledge of the average person, corruption or what is morally acceptable in order to create profits in a multinational corporation. Foster's film excels at being both a great action thriller and a cautionary tale. WARNING : Light spoilers ahead !
The main highlight of the film for me are the performances of its lead actors. It is flawless work. Clooney especially is extremely effective and funny as Lee Gates, the host of Money Monster, a financial TV show that is quite similar to real-life TV show Mad Money. His show mixes entertainment and financial advice as Gates dances, sings and basically does everything to keep his audience's attention despite the serious subject matter. The role was tailor-made for Clooney, who is known for playing charismatic and charming men on screen, while the public's perception of him in real-life is quite the same. He also displays his comedic side, whether its through the dance sequences or when he acts as comic relief during the tense scenes with O'Connell's Kyle Budwell. But Gates has a heart too and he seems to drastically change his position during the last quarter of the film, showing compassion for Kyle Budwell. This might seem unbelievable at first, as Budwell constantly threatens him, but Clooney portrays it convincingly, so much so that the audience too can't help but wonder who really is the bad guy in the film !
Julia Roberts is portraying the TV show director Patty Fenn. She spends most of the film sitting, talking with Gates through his earpiece but she gets a bit of action at the end of the film. Roberts is effective in the role but I think it was not a very challenging one (at least not as much as Clooney's). During the whole movie, I kept thinking the role would have been perfect for Jodie Foster herself ! Jack O'Connell is very good as Kyle Budwell, portraying him as a deeply troubled young man with whom we can't help but sympathize as his life is falling apart. He is able to maintain the right balance between being threatening and sympathetic at the same time, which is quite an accomplishment. Lots of people in the audience will likely see a bit of themselves through his character, as he his angered by the way Wall Street works and how it is sometimes impossible to know who should be held responsible when something goes wrong. His story is the classic David v. Goliath tale, here one man against a multinational corporation and its dark heart.
Apart from the performances, there is much to love about Money Monster. Here is a movie that creates suspense and tension the old-fashioned way, without it relying on CGI or countless action scenes. The film is dialogue-heavy and the interaction between the characters is all we have. In that way, the film feels like a breath of fresh air amidst all the usual superhero or franchises blockbusters of the summer. This film managed to keep me guessing how Clooney's character would get out of his situation until the very last minutes, which is something I experience rarely in theaters. We obviously know that his character will survive but how it happens is what is truly thrilling. The movie has many secondary characters and underplots, as it doesn't only focus on what happens in the studio where Clooney is held hostage, but it is never confusing and always fascinating. Jodie Foster is, I believe, a very promising director and I can't wait for her next movie. Being already an excellent actress, it seems like she can do anything !
The final point I'd like to highlight are the film's themes. At one point, a character (Dominic West's Walt Camby) says that nobody cares what a corporation does as long as it brings profits but that shareholders will start complaining as soon as something goes wrong. This quote is quite thought provoking and raises many questions, especially considering the horror stories we get in the news every day. Corruption and who should be held accountable is another important theme but it also makes us reflect on the power of media, the value of human life vs money and loyalty. I believe Jack O'ConnelI's character could be any average person but pushed to the extreme. A lot of people invest huge quantities of money in corporations and yet they don't know how the market works or why exactly they are doing it. I was surprised by how a film that at first seemed like a simple thriller stayed with me so long after it was finished. Don't get fooled by the trailers ; Money Monster is a thrilling and important film, great entertainment that manages to make you think.