There are many ways to tell a story, and one of the great things about film is that it offers the freedom to explore a range of narratives. A sweeping epic may unfold at a leisurely place over the course of two hours. A movie that takes place in a single day will be presumably action-packed and fast-paced, as there is little time for character or plot development. Money Monster promised a glimpse into a day in the life of two men on a particularly harrowing day for both.
George Clooney (Hail, Caesar!) stars as Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer type of character who mixes buffoonery with financial advice on his own cable show. I was amused to see the typically suave Clooney bounce around like a ham-handed carnival barker, flanked by two ‘dancers’ in costume like a bad rap video. Julia Roberts (Secret in Their Eyes) is Patty, his calm and cool producer who helms the ship, making it hum like a well-oiled machine. Gates has a duplicitous, opportunistic aura, sort of like a cross between a car salesman and a stockbroker, with more style than substance. When one of his tips to invest in a company called IBIS proves disastrous, disgruntled viewer Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell, Unbroken) exacts his own brand of justice by taking over the television studio during a live broadcast.
An unhinged protagonist is familiar cinematic territory, whether our anti-hero is robbing a bank or holding hostages. Common themes are desperation and a nearly suicidal level of commitment. Kyle is armed with a detonator and makes Lee wear a vest rigged with explosives. He blames the loss of his life savings on the TV host, whose offhand prediction cost him dearly. Dominic West (Genius, The Affair, The Wire) is featured as Walt Camby, IBIS’ shady CEO who claims an unforeseen glitch in his company’s financial algorithm caused the stock to take a hit. At first Kyle’s ire is directed solely at Lee, but Gates is able to pass the buck on to Camby, whose explanation for the massive loss is questionable at best.
Jodie Foster (Elysium) marks her return to directing here, and quite naturally I had high expectations for such an acclaimed collection of Hollywood’s elite. I won’t use the word disappointed, but Money Monster was more decent than memorable. I enjoyed the subplot involving supporting characters as they worked to uncover the truth behind Camby’s questionable geo-political business dealings, but for the most part the tension and tautness wasn’t there. Perhaps the fault lies in the script, as I thought Foster’s direction within the tight confines of the television studio was effective. The small space added to the air of desperation, but overall the film wasn’t something that stayed with me. Sometimes a day at the movies is just a passable one, and while that’s enough for some – others may want a little more. Grade: B