D: Jodie Foster. DP: Matthew Libatique. W: Jamie Linden. Starring: Julia Roberts/George Clooney/Jack O’Connell/Caitriona Balfe/Dominic West/Christopher Denham/Condola Rashad/Giancarlo Esposito.
Hot off the boat from its Cannes Film Festival premiere arrives the Jodie Foster directed thriller Money Monster. With star wattage in front and behind the camera the film works well to engross you in a topical story of financial loss.
Lee Gates (George Clooney) hosts a daily financial fluff show that features him gyrating to rap songs and hitting special effects buttons around the studio. The Money Monster show is produced by Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) who sits with an all male crew in a booth directing her staff as well as Gates through a typical ear piece. It is a day like any other when begrudged Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) poses as a delivery man and enters the studio. He interrupts the show to place a bomb triggered vest on Gates while the two hash out the recent stock crash of company Gates’ had recommended. Essentially a three handler the story navigates the threat of the bomb and coming face to face with the man responsible for the financial collapse of these stocks.
Foster seems confident in her actors to get the job done. These are faces we know well and their looks illustrate an old friendship that has already weathered a few tides. Clooney’s natural cheesy good looks fit well as a show host. He pulls off the more tender connective moments with O’Connell’s Kyle well, which helps you to ignore O’Connell’s thickly layered Queens accent attempt. It is refreshing to see Roberts take command of a narrative not capitalizing on her looks like say her new film Mother’s Day (that wig!). You believe their friendship, which keeps the investment in the action secure. Acting through screens and ear pieces the group produce a television segment that is more successful than the noisy attempts of law enforcement.
The three are supported by a nearly always great Dominic West whose Grinch like grin is a good choice for mogul Walt Bamby. His company’s communications head is newcomer Caitriona Balfe who has the hard narrative task of being the character trying to find all the answers. Christopher Denham as taskmaster producer Ron gives the film its humor as does Condola Rashad who plays an assistant. Give that gal a network show stat.
Jamie Linden keeps the pace up in his screenplay, a different kind of tempo for the writer who adapted Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John as well as writing football true story We Are Marshall. The pacing keeps you invested in this three handler of a story and helps hide some technical impossibilities along the way. Matthew Libatique (Straight Outta Compton, Ruby Sparks, Black Swan) plays around with screens and camera angles to get inside the studio and eventually with story as it literally moves.
Money Monster does not achieve anything exceptionally new, but it keeps your attention from start to finish. The film best belongs in a festival day that would also screen The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street. We could call it: Representations of the American Financial Crisis Onscreen! A whole other day could be spent on how these stories continue to be homogeneously white and male. Yet, I digress. Money Monster is an attentive commercial thriller at best and it makes me intrigued to see what Foster does next with her storytelling.