Perhaps the reason why kids have trouble believing there really are no monsters under their beds is that they can easily detect bullshit in the explanations we provide them. “Money Monster” demonstrates the extent to which members of the adult world allow themselves to accept the questionable excuses large corporations give them when they have a major screw up. However, there comes a point, like when a company loses eight billion dollars and proceeds to attribute the mishap to a technological glitch, when everyone becomes suspicious and angry.
Now, “Money Monster” is not actually a nickname for the rather unthreatening antagonist, but rather it’s the title of Lee Gates’s (George Clooney, “Gravity”) television show directed by Patty Fern (Julia Roberts, “Notting Hill”). Every Friday, Lee gives financial tips to the public that, while mostly accurate, are usually exaggerated. Thus, his fanbase is countered by a substantial group of haters. One of these haters, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’ Connell, “Unbroken”), sneaks onto the set determined to get an explanation for how IBIS (a powerful corporation) could possibly lose eight billion dollars overnight. He begins his interrogation by forcing Lee to make himself a human bomb. The only wrinkle in Kyle’s plan is that IBIS’s CEO, Walt Cannby (Dominic West, “300”), who was previously scheduled to do an in-person interview that day, has suddenly gone rogue (coincidence? I think not). At first, Lee thinks Kyle is a disillusioned psychopath convinced his life is far worse than anyone else’s. But, as Lee listens to Kyle’s testimony, he becomes convinced the real culprit must have human, not virtual fingerprints.
Clooney adds an essential layer of depth to the typical bigoted millionaire TV show host persona. He demonstrates hosting is a craft that requires the ability to make a connection with people, which is something not many can do well. Furthermore, Clooney shows hosts are frequently actors themselves — the attitude they exhibit for the camera may not be an accurate representation of their true personality. On air, Lee’s a know-it-all who views women as nothing more than sexualized objects. Yet, off screen, he exudes sincere gratitude for his entire crew, especially Patty.
Roberts’ portrayal of her character assures us Patty deserves this recognition. Patty comes off as a trustworthy, intelligent woman who can remain calm during high risk situations. On the other hand, she’s also not afraid to be annoyingly persistent and yell at high powered executives when they offer her nothing more than fabricated excuses. Finally, she’s a triumphant representative of women in power — not once do we question her ability to lead the crew of at least 30 individuals, most of whom are male.
“Money Monster” pales in comparison to the films of both genres it tries to blend. Unlike crime thrillers such as “Now You See Me” that leave viewers guessing until the final scene, “Money Monster” ’s events play out in a predictable manner. And, though it does expose the corruption of wealthy institutions, it fails to arouse the same intense feelings of hatred toward those who mishandle our hard-earned money that “The Big Short” does. Despite this, the film is not entirely distasteful, thanks to the comic relief provided by the loyal cameraman, Lenny (Lenny Venito, “War of the Worlds”), and the producer, Rob (Christopher Denham, “Shutter Island”).
Instead of smoothly shifting from one tone to the next, the film abruptly switches between them. While music usually helps to ease this type of transition, director Jodie Foster’s (“The Silence of the Lambs”) use of music only enhances the contradicting tones. She follows the awkwardly sappy ending with Dan the Automator’s hype hip-hop track, “What Make the World Go Round [MONEY!].”
So, when deciding where to throw your green this weekend, know that “Money Monster” is a very risky investment. If I were you, I’d take that eight dollars and spend it somewhere else.