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New Release Review - MONEY MONSTER

A TV show host is taken hostage by a disgruntled young man who followed his bad financial advice.




Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito



Watching talented movie stars embrace and enjoy their roles as much as the actors appear to here always provides a degree of entertainment, but there are far better movies out there you could invest your own savings in.



I've never been very good with money. Truth is, I've never been good with numbers. I do know two plus two equals four. In Jodie Foster's fourth directorial feature (if I've added them up correctly), Money Monster, we have two male leads (George Clooney and Jack O'Connell) and two female leads (Julia Roberts and Caitriona Balfe). Even with my limited maths, I know that's a 50/50 split. That just happens to be roughly the same ratio of men to women in the actual world. This shouldn't be the sort of observation you take from a movie, but the fact it sticks out tells you exactly why we need more women filmmakers, even those as limited in their vision as Foster.


If you've seen Dog Day Afternoon or Inside Man, you'll be familiar with the rough template followed by Foster's film. Clooney plays Lee Gates, the extravagant host of 'Money Monster', a financial advice show on a cable network. On one episode he told his viewers to invest in a company called IBIS, which subsequently tanked, costing investors $800 million. Such is the game, and Gates has practically forgotten about the debacle when four weeks later he finds himself staring down a gun barrel on live TV. Having lost $60,000 on Gates' bad tip, disgruntled delivery man Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) has decided to make an uninvited guest appearance in search of some form of justice.

Attempting to keep her host alive, while at the same time boosting the ratings, director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) oversees the scenario from her control booth. On the outside, the personal secretary and mistress to IBIS' CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West), Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), begins an investigation into her boss/lover's dealings, which she quickly finds haven't been exactly legit.


I've always believed that if a script is even 10% comedic, it needs to be adapted by a director skilled at comedy. Roughly 10% of Money Monster is comedic, but its comic beats routinely fail to land one by one. Much of this is down to poor timing in the editing, but also Foster's direction, which doesn't place enough import on these moments. It may deal with a very serious theme, but Money Monster isn't the po-faced movie Foster seems to think she's directing. It's a satire filmed as a thriller, and the colourful script and performances seem at odds with the monotone direction, cinematography, editing and music.

What holds Money Monster together is that aforementioned quartet of central performances. Clooney morphs seamlessly from the slippery coward of the movie's early scenes to the reborn defender of the meek he becomes as the movie progresses, even if the script never really sells such an unlikely transformation. Despite struggling with a New York accent that takes a trip to every major city on the US East Coast, O'Connell does an admirable job of making us sympathise with a character that really doesn't hold up to scrutiny (he's basically an idiot looking to blame someone else for his own recklessness). Stuck in a chair for most of the movie, Roberts is better here than we've seen her in quite a while, and seems to be really enjoying herself. But it's relative newcomer Balfe (star of the cult TV show Outlander) who leaves the greatest impression; she's magnetic, stealing scenes even when her character is only glimpsed reacting to the situation on a background monitor. Expect to see a lot more of this Irish actress in the coming years.


The biggest problem with Money Monster is that it's clearly a movie about money made by people who don't really understand its value. It's a self-hating lecture from millionaires that mines the easy narrative crux of 'rich man bad, poor man noble', and there's a complete lack of nuance here; everything ultimately plays out exactly as you expect it to.

Watching talented movie stars embrace and enjoy their roles as much as the actors appear to here always provides a degree of entertainment, but there are far better movies out there you could invest your own savings in.

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