During the past several years, the economic recession has left people broken financially, broken personally and with a lot of unanswered questions. Those feelings of hopelessness bubble to the surface in director Jodie Foster’s latest film “Money Monster.” The film paints a realistic picture of how desperation can consume a person’s life when one of the only things they have left to cling to is fear.
The “Money Monster” story centers on financial television host Lee Gates (George Clooney) and his staff. In his financial show, Gates uses humor and over-the-top acting when making his predictions about the stock market to connect with his audience. As the show airs, its live broadcast is interrupted by gunman Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell). Budwell holds the studio hostage with his pistol and explosive vests. He blames Lee for an investment that left him broke. Budwell then pressures Lee and his staff to find out what caused this investment to tank.
The character of a hostage taker, like Budwell, has often been portrayed as over-the-top obnoxious types, someone with a political agenda or a terrorist seeking revenge. While the “Die Hard” franchise has helped mold this character into a role that is comical type cast, watching “Money Monster” allowed the audience to see Budwell as the average Joe or someone that you might not give a second thought to on the street. While Budwell’s actions were wrong, you could not help but feel for the guy as he told his story to Lee and the television audience. O’Connell’s performance in this movie hooked me from the moment he appeared on screen to the very end. It is truly remarkable. While O’Connell’s character is very vocal about the answers he seeks, his non-verbal expressions are just as powerful.
Audiences will remember O’Connell from his performance as prisoner of war Louis Zamperini from the film “Unbroken” in 2014. This performance goes beyond what he has done previously and the audience is the winner for it.
Along with O’Connell, Clooney and Julia Roberts, who plays the show’s director Patty Fenn, give a performance that is very believable. Like O’Connell, the non-verbal expressions and body language that Clooney and Roberts display is key to making this story work. They show fear without it having to be said. The story shows when a person gets backed into a corner and is left with little options, the path they take can be unpredictable.
The film highlights the classic struggle of man vs. himself in Clooney’s performance when Lee realizes the impact his words and actions has made on his audience. Lee struggles with that realization throughout the story that money is not everything and there are people behind the numbers.
Foster’s direction in this film provides a good balance between high intensity, drama and realism. She does not let one element dominant the story, but instead keeps several elements in a healthy check.
“Money Monster” has a lot of striking similarities to the CNBC show “Mad Money,” hosted by Jim Cramer. I have never been a fan of Cramer. I think that his approach to providing financial advice is reckless and should not be taken seriously. Cramer acts more like a character on a children’s show rather than a serious financial advisor because of his continued use of animations and sound effects that are a part of his stock presentations. It seems to me that writers watched a week or two worth of Cramer’s show and added those elements into the script. One scene even seems to mimic Cramer when Lee, pitching a stock tip, tells the audience to “man up” and “get some balls.” The screen behind him then shows basketballs bouncing.
“Money Monster” is a great film and takes the audience on a high intensity ride that is full of unexpected twists and turns, which rewards them at the end. “Money Monster” is rated R for language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence and runs 98 minutes.
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