It doesn’t get any more “A-List” than George Clooney and Julia Roberts, but their latest film, Money Monster (opening today) is a complete dog.
Nevermind that the film is directed by another A-Lister, Jodie Foster, who has had much more acclaim as an actor rather than a director (this is her fourth big-screen effort, following The Beaver – a movie I loved – and the sub-par Home for the Holidays and Little Man Tate). Here, she spins her wheels with a preachy, poorly-executed thrill-less thriller. What they must believe is biting sociopolitical content ends up having no teeth, no bite, whatsoever.
Lee Gates (Clooney) is a paper-thin financial TV personality, played as a caricature (he’s Bill O-Reilly crossed with Apollo Creed). His on-air antics and showmanship are meant to satirize the current state of television, and it does to a certain degree, but Clooney just seems uncomfortable. His director Patty (Roberts) looks on from the control room, and there are under-cooked hints of a past off-camera relationship between them. All goes hay-wire when a disgruntled, bomb-toting sociopath ( Jack O’Connell) hi-jacks the show live on the air, mad about losing money based on a stock tip from Gates, creating what I’m assuming was meant to be a tense, tout, hostage drama.
Look, we get it: Corporations and rich people are bad, blue-collar workers have had enough, and something’s got to give. But despite your political leanings or feelings toward capitalism, nobody likes being beat over the head with condescending, cliched themes. If you’re on the right, you will probably see Money Monster as yet another example of liberal Hollywood fantasy. If you’re on the left, you’ll feel the excess weight of having poured this message on a bit too thick. And if you’re in the middle, or just came because of the star-power or to hopefully catch an interesting flick, you will be most disappointed of all.
There’s no denying the chemistry between Clooney and Roberts: Here are two actors in which charisma comes easy. But the story doesn’t allow them to share the screen together except for brief book-end scenes at the beginning and end. In-between, Clooney is either too busy hamming it up with his character’s slickness or we get the “worried onlooker” scenes with Roberts. When the story spills into the streets, it becomes a hopeless, heartless pandering to middle class frustrations. Everything that makes it to the screen is heavy-handed and forced, and it fails on all fronts – as a political movie, as an action-caper – and is just out-of-step from the very beginning.
Dominic West shows up as the personification of evil, or in other words, a corporate CEO. Lenny Venito as “Lenny the Cameraman” is there to make sure that a stereotypical New-Yorker gets involved in the melee. Neither contribute anything and like Clooney and Roberts, find themselves trapped within the poorly-drawn parameters of the one-dimensional story.
Money Monster is a huge let-down, considering its stars and the fact that it was dealing with what could have been very timely themes. People are frustrated, people are mad, and people are demanding change. But here’s a financial tip that is sure to be a winner: Save your ticket money and avoid Money Monster like a crashing stock.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Caitriona Balfe, Jack O’Connell, Giancarlo Esposito, Dominic West, Lenny Venito
Directed by Jodie Foster (The Beaver, Home for the Holidays, Little Man Tate)
Opens locally on Friday, May 13, 2016 (check for show times).