Monday Update – Money Monster

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Money Monster – This Jodie Foster (yes, THAT Jodie Foster) film surprised me a lot. Not in terms of plot, mind you – can you imagine an evil, conniving CEO in a film that rips off his own company – but for its pacing and genre. Monster Monster, at least in trailers and the like, somehow became falsely identified as some sort of “thriller”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because of a stock premise and the inevitability of the movie’s end, the screenplay instead bother to humanize its characters and make them likeable through the ever-effective form of comedic interplay and quirky events.

Is this intentional? I would imagine so. After all, if it wasn’t, Money Monster would turn into rote genre fare relatively quickly. In that context, George Clooney as your lead character for the majority of the film really sells this as a comedy more than a thriller or drama. Utilizing that smug sense of confidence that seems to protrude from every fiber of his being, he literally plays a fictionalized version of Jim Cramer named Lee Gates who hosts a show called, unsurprisingly, Money Monster. It would work as pure satire, if only for the inconvenient problem of a hostage situation live on air from Kyle Budwell, who took a stock tip from Gates that went bad and wants to either kill/blow up Gates and whoever stole the $60,000 he invested in a bad trade. Probably good to emphasize that this was ALL of Kyle’s savings, so he’s angry. Very angry.

And, of course, he brings a bomb vest, so this brings a lot more fun to the part for everyone! Hurray! So how does one fix this situation? Getting to the truth of the matter, not surprisingly. And this takes the form of somewhat specious investigative journalism, where a bunch of side characters (including Julia Roberts, who plays producer to Money Monster the show) find information for the lead cast. The CCO of Ibis, the company involved in the whole scandal, also gets an inkling that things may not be what they seem and starts doing some internal investigations. But hey, this is still exciting stuff, because who knows when/if George Clooney will be blown up?

What makes the film work more often than not is that the characters have character. In a 98 minute film, broad strikes prevail over in-depth characterizations, but Clooney, Roberts, et al., really do a lot with a little. I get the sense from Lee Gates that he’s tired and not quite sure what he’s doing with his life, despite having all the money in the world. His producer doesn’t really like him much either, only in as much as he represents payment, but they end up forming a bond through Bomb Vest Mania. Of course, your two leads will naturally absorb the time that could be spent on other characters, but that’s fine with me – everyone turns in a solid performance regardless of how small or big a role.

Anyway, long story short: Money Monster’s entertaining. It doesn’t have any deep message about corporate culture, despite its intimations to the contrary. It’s more like a film about what it takes for people to change, to jostle them out of their comfort zones under the guise of a business-based potboiler thriller. If that sounds like a particularly unusual combination of parts, you aren’t alone – I’d recommend it purely on novelty.

So yes, I enjoyed it. But a word of warning to those who read my seemingly glowing recommendation: this movie contains questionable content up the wazoo. I am unsure why this film needed an R-rating, or what any of this content adds to the film, but people swear. A lot, and in creative enough ways that I noticed. Also, there’s an erectile dysfunction joke that leads to a wholly unnecessary sex scene at about the half hour mark, which has to take the cake for surprises as far as movies with this particular premise go. Both these elements struck me as unbelievably jarring and detracted from my enjoyment of the film (not so much the swearing, because it’s realistic that people in tense situations would act this way).

But that’s about it for me…

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.