Money Monster is director Jodie Foster latest film, and it delves into a real world financial mess with gritty realism. Lee Gates (George Clooney) is known as the “Money Monster.” His television show of the same name mimics a kind of extreme sports version of a financial show with some pretty savvy dancing. When a mysterious man (Jack O’Connell) walks onto the set with a gun and an explosives-filled vest, things instantly transition from fun to ultra serious.
Of course the mysterious man — who we soon learn is named Kyle — has a story to tell. Kyle wants answers. He trusted one of Lee’s flippant comments and lost a lot of money due to an alleged “glitch” in the system. Kyle is hoping that this extreme attempt to talk with Lee and corporate CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West), whose company lost his money, will result in answers for all the seemingly anonymous people who lost money. And to try to get these answers, he has the show remain on the air, broadcasting a hostage crisis live to the world.
Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) is forced to make a choice. As the producer of the television show, she can either cut the feed and Lee (along with the rest of the crew) will face dire consequences, or she can keep rolling and have the team at the station start digging for real answers. It’s the journalism work that she has wanted to do and is about to leave the show to pursue. How does someone so personally invested in the crew and her host stay calm enough to attempt a safe resolution for everyone?
This was a film that could have easily taken one move and jumped off the tracks into parody, but instead it breathes thrilling life into a terrifying plot. Foster is able to manipulate emotions through peaks and valleys and leave viewers hating Lee one second but feeling for him the next. We empathize with Kyle, but are angry with him for his actions at the next turn. Foster delivers a beautifully orchestrated tone to the film.
Let’s face it: George Clooney is an amazing actor. He displays all facets of Gates’ personality. The good, the bad and the really ugly all come through as he sees his life flashing before his eyes. The ego is high, then in check, and all the while, Clooney never wavers. Working together with Roberts, there is a chemistry that is unquestioned. Roberts’ love for her host, who absolutely drives her nuts, is just what we’d expect of someone in her position. The ability to display that love onscreen in her calmness during the crisis is part of what makes Roberts a superstar. And we can’t forget Jack O’Connell. Without his hopeless, confused nature driving the seemingly everyday Kyle through irrational decisions, this film would not have its full mojo working.
With more everyday investors in the markets than ever before, crises like this one become increasingly personal. A small blip in markets can ruin a single person and everyone their life touches. There is never any excuse for taking actions like Kyle’s, but the bottom line is real. Everyone wants — no, deserves — answers to how their money is managed. Years ago, Michael Douglas, when playing Gordon Gekko, uttered the phrase “Greed is good.” And while that may be true to some extent, it might be time to be greedy with our ability to get the answers from the people dishing up the advice and understanding the “glitches” that can ruin us all.
Money Monster is available beginning Sept. 6 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.