DIR: Jodie Foster • WRI: Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf • PRO: Lara Alameddine, George Clooney, Daniel Dubiecki, Grant Heslov • DOP: Matthew Libatique • ED: Matt Chesse • DES: Kevin Thompson • MUS: Dominic Lewis • CAST: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
When a heavy-hitter like Money Monster lands onscreen, you immediately take notice… but that can often blind you to a movie’s real stature. Directed by Jodie Foster, starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney with a host of more-than-capable supporting actors, this was always going to be a film that demanded to be seen. Disappointingly, it doesn’t quite live up to the potential of its star-power investment – throughout Money Monster there is the distinct underlying feeling that this could and should have been a much better movie.
With all that, it still manages to be an entertaining piece of film – George Clooney’s ridiculous Lee Gates bounds onscreen with all the bravado of a talk-show bandit, and Julia Roberts’ exasperated producer, Patty, brings warmth and determination to the role. Their sparring is an ode to that golden age of cinema, where professional partnerships between men and women had that tantalising air of respect and mutual understanding without descending into boring old romance. In fairness, it is a pleasure to watch Clooney and Roberts onscreen under the gentle hand of Jodie Foster’s direction – it’s somewhat comforting to see a film made with charisma and sure-footedness by veteran thespians.
Things heat up when the borderline-MacGuffin of the piece, Kyle Budwell (ably played with dopey-eyed sadness by Jack O’Conner), arrives on stage with a bomb and a gun to point Lee and the narrative in a much firmer direction. Blaming Lee and the ‘sure thing’ tips from his primetime programme for sending Kyle and his financial investments south, he has a bone to pick with the establishment. Lee’s flamboyant show, a mix between Wall Street tips and gimmicky bells and whistles, had bet its bottom dollar on IBIS Global Capital – run by CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) – which had bottomed out in the worst possible way, losing billions for investors, and Kyle’s life savings to boot. Walt was due to be a guest on Lee’s show but has disappeared on his private jet, leaving his chief CO Diane Lester (Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, with lovely accent intact) as proxy for all of Kyle’s dangerous self-loathing and despair. Diane quickly realises that Walt may not have been entirely honest about the causes of the huge loss, and Kyle’s actions spur her and Lee to get to the bottom of this financial crisis. Patty remains in Lee’s ear throughout the ordeal, guiding him towards safety and resolution, and remained steadfastly on his side throughout the escalating situation.
Part of what makes Money Monster less than it should be is the non-thrilling aspect of this thriller storyline – the danger of a gunman and bomb in a television studio is mitigated by Foster’s diversions into pop culture commentary. While her black humour can be detected in these dalliances, the references to memes, vines, snapchatting viewers and cheering crowds obsessed with fame doesn’t add to the film as it should, and instead distracts with cheap laughs. Most cinema goers didn’t see an ironic commentary on Wall Street and global finance buried in these allusions, and instead laughed heartily at the surface-level joke – which makes it a point not made for Foster. Strong acting means Money Monster is an entertaining piece of filmmaking, but the sometimes preachy and often fragmented storytelling leaves it just short of where it should have landed.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Money Monster is released 28th May 2016