FilmReview

Review: ‘Money Monster’ is Full of Misplaced Empathy

John Allegretti ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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George Clooney and Jack O’Connell in Money Monster. Photo Credit: Tristar Pictures.

George Clooney wasn’t always the smooth-talking leading man we know today. In the late 80s he was an actor who cut his teeth on low-budget horror, usually playing the sleazy best friend character. Money Monster sees a return to form with Clooney as Lee Gates, a slimy TV host in New York City. Gates runs a show called Money Monster where he gives stock tips and financial advice. But when a violent man interrupts an episode with a gun and bomb vest, it looks like Gates may have gotten a few tips wrong.

Money Monster is helmed by veteran director and actress Jodie Foster, who assembles a stellar cast for the film. George Clooney is great as always, but Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell (from last year’s ’71) also deliver strong performances. The problem is that all of these talented actors are at the mercy of a very flawed story. The movie is basically The Big Short meets Die Hard, with none of the grace or insight of The Big Short (something I never thought I’d be saying). The direction by Jodie Foster is solid, the cinematography slick, but all of these things that work moment-to-moment fall apart the minute you step back and think about the overall film. Money Monster is a movie that tries to criticize the people on Wall Street, but ends up making the people they victimize look even worse.

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Julia Roberts and George Clooney in Money Monster. Photo Credit: Tristar Pictures.

Take for example, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), the blue-collar worker who holds the TV station hostage. Budwell is a guy who has lost all of his life savings, and blames Clooney’s character for it. The film tries to make O’Connell sympathetic, but has him constantly waving a gun around while shouting at the top of his lungs. He’s a dumb terrorist, and that makes it near impossible to empathize with him. But as the film goes on, it becomes apparent how stupid O’Connell’s character really is. Almost every character in the film points this out when we find out the reason he lost his life savings was that he put it all into the stock Gates gave a tip on. The fact that O’Connell would risk that much money on the word of a television host tells you everything you need to know about his character.

Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) also makes some pretty questionable decisions during the course of the film. Her character plays an active role in aiding O’Connell instead of de-escalating the hostage situation. When O’Connell finds out Clooney isn’t the one to blame for his situation, Roberts helps him figure out who made him lose his life savings. But things get even more ridiculous when the story moves outside the TV station. Julia Roberts actually has a cameraman follow O’Connell and Clooney onto the street. This is wrong and exploitive on so many levels it makes you question the judgment of the writers. Julia Roberts isn’t playing John McClane, she’s playing Jake Gyllenhaal from Nightcrawler. Police keep their distance as O’Connell escorts a bomb vest-wearing Clooney down the street, gun still in hand. While this is happening random people on the streets and around the country cheer him on and call him a hero. Why? If something like this happened in real life not one person would be supporting O’Connell. There probably wouldn’t be any people on the streets.

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George Clooney and Jack O’Connell in Money Monster. Photo Credit: Tristar Pictures.

Money Monster is like George Clooney’s character. It’s a sleazy and charming film that is so morally skewed you wonder how it exists. It’s clear from this and films like Elysium that Foster wants us to question the judgment of the people behind our economic systems. But after watching Money Monster, I’m just inclined to question everyone’s judgment.

Overall Grade: D+

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