Review: Money Monster

Review: Money Monster

Money Monster is a combination of prestigious pieces that sound at least somewhat appealing on paper. This is the fourth feature film directed by two-time acting Oscar winner Jodie Foster. It stars Oscar winners Julia Roberts and George Clooney. And it has a timely political message about the avarice many decry on Wall Street. Somehow, though, the pieces just don't add up to more than the sum of the parts. The film has elements that are effective and moments that work, but they are too few and far between to give this too strong an endorsement. 

Photo Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Photo Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

The film opens with an introduction to Lee Gates (played by George Clooney), a Jim Cramer-esque market commentator with a penchant for flashy antics. We learn who this character is through his terse, but friendly, interactions with his colleagues. After some brief exposition, his show begins. Antics galore. There are dancers, there is music, there is Lee. The film makes every attempt to drive home the point that this is show business and Lee is a performer first and foremost. 

The beginning of his show is laced with interactions with Patty Fenn (played by Julia Roberts), who directs the show. It is evident these two have a history, though the extent is not immediately clear. Fast forward a few minutes into the show and Kyle Budwell (played by Jack O'Connell) enters the picture as the well-meaning hostage taker who is sent over the edge after losing all of his savings when a stock declined sharply. He blames Lee and Walt Camby (played by Dominic West), the CEO of company he invested in, for his troubles and wants them to account for all he's lost. 

Photo Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Photo Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

The film gets to the hostage situation relatively quickly and most of the action comes from his threats and the attempts of others to defuse the situation. Some of the film's less effective moments come early as the audience should be pretty well aware Lee is not in real danger of dying so early. Thankfully, those moments are few and far between, as the film focuses on conveying messages rather than ratcheting up the tension at the expense of all else. The rest of the film's action comes from a cat and mouse game with Walt Camby, as the audience learns Kyle's anger may be justified.

As an aside, the filmmamkers made a curious choice in having Dominic West, an English actor, use an American accent, while other actors used their native delivery. It was a clear but subtle choice to make sure the shady villain was a Big Bad American. 

The film focuses on style, with static elements in the opening credits meant to introduce the 'entertainment'  theme the film seems fixated on. The problem is that it never really figures out how to make this resonate with the viewer. Everyone will notice that Patty starts 'directing' Kyle's hostage-taking message, and everyone will see the way the events of the movie remain a production throughout, but what they won't see is a legitimate reason for this thematic element. It lessens the impact of the film's main message and seems forced in every instance.

Photo Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Photo Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

The part of the action exposed in this review is handled relatively well. As the story unfolds, however, certain characters become oddly high-minded in ways that didn't ring true. While there was opportunity for lots of gray scale that would have done justice to how complicated the market is, the film instead uses black/white, us/them and good/evil. It is certainly possible this will satisfy some palates, but given what could have been, it feels like an opportunity lost. The film's tagline--Not every conspiracy is a theory--is exposed as nothing more than a tagline by the end of this so-so experience.

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