In December of last year, I wrote a review on The Big Short. Calling it an ‘informational comedy’, I said that it was in a “whole other league” and gave it a coveted 10/10. A big reason I enjoyed it so much was that it took a tragedy with very complicated information and made it not only accessible, but entertaining.
In December of 2013, I wrote a review on The Wolf of Wall Street (notice the difference two years made in my writing!). Calling it ‘darkly funny’, I also gave it a 10/10. I enjoyed the character study of a deplorable person who financially ruined a lot of people. Maybe it’s because I’m a straight, white dude, but I seem to have a thing for movies about financial markets.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Money Monster to The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street. The latter two films are based off of books and real stories. The latter two films take place over a long period of time. The latter two films are good.
The biggest issue I have with Money Monster is that it takes a real problem (financial corruption on Wall Street) and fictionalizes it in an uninteresting way (a finance personality is held hostage by an upset citizen who listened to flawed advice). It’s trying really hard to be an intense thriller with a political message. It fails in both respects.
Let’s be clear about one thing from the start. The biggest problem with Money Monster has to do with its script. From the blatant caricatures to its unguided focus it forces the film into a narrow corner that the movie can’t seem to get out of. It never becomes truly boring or aggravating, but it is never allowed to reach its full potential.
George Clooney plays a blatant Jim Cramer/Mad Money parody (the show’s name is “Money Monster” … it even has the same initials). The problem is that he is far too low-key to be hosting the high-octane low-journalism show that the movie is trying to sell you with.
Money Monster’s Friday show is interrupted by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a man upset about losing his entire life savings on a company that Clooney’s character endorsed and went bankrupt. He screams a lot and is essentially a plot device to figure out what illegal actions took place within the company.
Julia Roberts plays Clooney’s director. She does a great job with what she has, but her character is severely limited by the circumstances. She becomes a voice in Clooney’s ear and someone to communicate and coordinate with other characters. Her emotions are rarely shown, which is somewhat of a disappointment.
With characters that don’t change in any meaningful way, all of the weight falls on the story. There’s a somewhat enjoyable resolution to what happened with the company in question, but there’s a lot of waiting to get there, and the full story is not nearly as layered as one would hope.
However, Money Monster is not a complete bust. Jodie Foster (yes, that Jodie Foster) directs the film, and she does a great job at managing the film’s spatial awareness. There is a lot going on in this film, with what is happening in the studio, on the soundstage, in the New York streets and around the globe, but Foster does a great job at managing everything and making it uncomplicated and stimulating.
I guess I should say that I didn’t hate Money Monster. It was disappointing, but not painful. The diegetic reactions to the events taking place were a little cringe-worthy, but they served a purpose. The script didn’t reach its full potential, but it had its moments. I wasn’t emotionally moved, but I was somewhat satisfied I suppose. Most of all, I appreciate that the film broke the stereotype of the TV cameraman (even if that stereotype is incredibly true). If the trailer makes you weary, you should be. If you think it looks cool, it might be for you.