REVIEW – “Money Monster” is Creatively Bankrupt
Money Monster features a few subversive and humorous moments, but it suffers from formulaic writing, unconvincing acting, and uninspired direction. Despite starring George Clooney (Gravity, Ocean’s Eleven), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Mother’s Day), and Jack O’Connell (Unbroken), this film is creatively bankrupt.
Money Monster fails on many levels. However, there are several scenes in which this film strives to be more than just another procedural thriller. This is evident in the manner in which Emily Meade’s Molly, the pregnant girlfriend of the hostage taker, Kyle Budwell, is brought in to talk to him, only to cuss him out and blames him for everything. Because this subverts what is expected, the screenwriters, which include: Jamie Linden (Dear John, We Are Marshall), Alan DiFore (Grimm), and Jim Kouf (Rush Hour, National Treasure), deserve some credit.
Another subversive moment occurs when George Clooney’s Lee Gates provides a motivational speech in which he tries to convince millions of people to invest in a stock to save his life. After he provides his speech, it seems as if an implausible solution may be reached just before that falls flat on its face. The moment in which Lee Gates realizes that he failed to make the stock sell well enough to save his life is well-timed and directed. Kyle Budwell’s response is also well-handled.
By far the best parts of Money Monster are when it tries to be funny. Most of this film’s laughs come when Christopher Denham’s Ron, a producer of the TV show “Money Monster,” is on-screen. In various scenes, his director, Patty (Julia Roberts) orders him to run miles and perform vital tasks. Watching Denham (Argo, Shutter Island) run around uncomfortably is mildly amusing. Yet, the funniest moments are those in which Ron tries out an erection creme for himself. Both of these scenes are impeccably timed, directed, written, and acted.
Money Monster offers some laughs, but the screenwriters strive to provide quippy lines as swiftly as those in an Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball, & Steve Jobs) film. This vain attempt to be funny in nearly every line of dialogue results in far more misses than hits. Not even George Clooney can deliver most of the jokes in an effective manner.
Formulaic Writing & Unconvincing Acting:
The screenwriters’ greatest mistakes occur in their management of the plot, character. According to IMDb, the plot of this film is:
In the real-time, high stakes thriller Money Monster, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor who has lost everything (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio. During a tense standoff broadcast to millions on live TV, Lee and Patty must work furiously against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today’s fast-paced, high-tech global markets.
Because this plot description and this film make it obvious that the CEO is corrupt form the beginning of this film, there is nothing mysterious about it. As the characters strive to uncover the truth, the audience already knows more than they do. This makes theses scenes tedious and not worth investing in. To make matters worse, the screenwriters expect the audience to accept implausible situation after implausible situation. The security that guards the place where the TV show “Money Monster” film is laughable. Kyle Budwell walks in as a delivery boy and makes it all the way to the stage without being stopped or forced to hurt someone. Also, when Kyle and Lee walk a mile or more to go meet the CEO of IBIS Capital, seeing the police let them walk towards a crowd of people with a “bomb” vest on Lee is preposterous. Finally, without spoiling it, there is only one thing Lee wants from the CEO, Dominic West’s (300) Walt Camby, but it is not cathartic. Rather, it is ends the conflict with a “whimper.”
As for the characters, they are all either clichés or one-dimensional. For instance, there are two computer hackers that are first introduced as stoners merely to conform to this tired stereotype. Lee Gates is a narcissistic show-host that is known for running his mouth and being difficult. Clooney never manages to provide anything in his performance to make this interesting. His attempts to be funny and dramatic both fall flat. Also, Julia Roberts’ Patty is a bossy director that is tired of dealing with a difficult TV-show host, and she never provides more personality than the script and director require. As for Jack O’Connell’s Kyle Budwell, the screenwriters make him a loser who is incapable of stopping his destructive actions. Even though O’Connell proved he can provide a great performance in Unbroken, he is weighed down under the weight of an underdeveloped character arc. The most dynamic character is Ron, who is only there to provide comedic relief.
Jodie Foster is a talented actress who provided great performances in films such as Panic Room, The Silence of the Lambs, and Inside Man. Her work here as a director suggests that she should stick to acting or search for a better screenplay. Foster’s directorial style is bland, dutiful, and unremarkable. She fails to make the hostage situation plausible and suspenseful. There is no character worth investing in and Foster never directs the performers to rise above the screenplay. Therefore, this is film’s attempts at suspense and drama fail miserably.
Worst of all, the tone shifts are abrupt and forced. For example, having the funniest and most-likeable character, Ron, shot by Kyle accidentally ruins the dramatic momentum of him marching towards the CEO (in a horrid scene). Foster’s direction fails in every dramatic moment, especially that featured during the climax. Because Foster never provides enough style to make up for the lack of substance, this is an unmitigated disaster.
Money Monster features a few funny, subversive moments, but it is ultimately weighed down by a formulaic screenplay, unconvincing performances, and uninspired direction. This creatively bankrupt film is not worth investing in.
Runtime: 98 minutes.
Rating: R for language throughout, some sexuality, and brief violence.
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