“Money Monster” – a film review by Gary Chew
“Has Howard Beal been re-incarnated?” you ask yourself as Money Monster attacks the screen before your very eyes. No … and there aren’t any flashback clips of Peter Finch stalking a TV news set either.
But George Clooney comes to us as Lee Gates; not unlike CNBC’S Jim Cramer, yet a totally different style of host, pulling financial shenanigans on cable TV … with props and backup dancers. Please know that all the stalking done on Mr. Gates’ set is done by an intruder with hand gun … and bomb vest that’s soon applied to the physique of Mr. Clooney. I use “physique” to best described George’s person.
Julia Roberts is the show’s director: very cool and professional, of course, and cast as somewhat of a wallflower. Oh yes, the program is a daily on some network. It’s called Money Monster. That makes all of this less confusing … and for people who do a constant market watch, happy.
Our intruder is played by British actor Jack O’Connell. Just call the interloper Kyle. Mr. O’Connell has hurled his natural accent to the winds to make Kyle sound as if he might be from Queens. Kyle has been screwed out of 60-grand by some kind of algorithmic hiccup within the vast reaches of computer technology that lurks in an anonymous venue held by IBIS, a mega-corp. IBIS sounds much like Imus.
Adding it all up, eight-hundred mil seems to have gone amiss due to the mishap. So, Kyle wants to make a public statement about the screwing he’s been, uh … handed, even though it’s a paltry $60,000 for this guy who delivers packages in The Apple. Kyle’s hand gun and the detonator switch he holds in his other mitt make it easy for him to gain quick control of the studio and control room, both running over with a television crew in front of and behind all those cameras. Kyle demands that the cameras and mics not be turned off and keep pouring out what transpires for millions of viewers. (Say, this is beginning to seem a lot like a TV reality show.)
That’s the tangent the picture takes to maintain pace and suspense so generously applied by the great Jodie Foster, who directed Money Monster. (Yea, Jodie!) But one thing to note is that the further the narrative took me toward closure, the more suspended disbelief I had to muster.
What’s surprising about Monster’s mixing of genres is: it works! Seldom is that the case. This picture is very funny. And “funny” pops up in the darndest places. My notion this works so well is that, at bottom, the screenwriters have given us a covert photo play of slick parody and submerged cynicism. (I just love those two elements in a script.)
You have on your hands a movie that mightily mocks the whole of television and the people who stay glued to it day in and day out. (Full disclosure: I am sometimes one of those viewers, especially when Sponge Bob is on.) Then it applies to that mockery … a transmogrification of the whole ball of wax into: “Hey, lookie there! Some of those people are actually doing journalism!” I really like that as there’s been such a downturn on that score since I could watch Walter and Chet and Peter on those big network newscasts. But, that’s they way it is … today.
If you’re not progressively minded, you might miss this boat completely … or if you do get aboard, you could be pretty P-Oh’d as to the liberal message that writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf have cleverly put together. Great job, Guys. Reminders in several newsrooms need to be disseminated.