It’s not fair how attractive and charming George Clooney is, even in jerk mode.
That opening line has nothing to do with how I feel about his newest film, but I just thought it was worth pointing out. Anywho. “Money Monster” stars Clooney as TV host Lee Gates, a guy who runs a show about the wild world of Wall Street (it’s basically Mad Money). When a disgruntled investor (Jack O’Connell) takes Gates hostage at gunpoint live on one of his shows, he and his director (Julia Roberts) must talk their way out of it. Jodie Foster directs.
This is a prime example of a film that is good-not-great. There are elements of a better product buried beneath the surface, but for the most part the film only manages to scratch them. Still, thanks to a relatively strong script and dedicated performances from Clooney and Roberts, “Money Monster” is a pretty entertaining time.
Nothing about this film is Oscar-worthy, I feel that should be made clear. When you see “Academy Award winner [blank]” in the trailer for an R-rated adult drama, sometimes people instantly hope for the best. But “Money Monster” never really strives to be anything more than entertainment, even if it does try to point out some questionable actions in how our country runs.
George Clooney (seriously, the dude is 55 and only getting more and more handsome) strikes the right balance of cocky and charming, but even if he isn’t sleepwalking through his role this is work he can do in his sleep. A lot of Julia Roberts’ work is isolated in a booth or truck, but she does solid work playing the woman trying to contain the situation by talking in Clooney’s ear. Part of the reason you probably watch a film like this is for the names on the poster and they don’t disappoint.
I really enjoyed the film’s script, too. There some fun interactions and a few almost Aaron Sorkin-like walk-and-talk sequences. Even in the most stressful scenes a character will make a wise remark to lighten the tension and it never came off as awkward or out-of-place.
What holds the film back from being better than it is is a mixture of Foster’s direction and the third act. While the dialogue in the film is very well-polished, what takes away tension and any building sense of claustrophobia are the constant changing locations. While it would have been tough to do, had the film taken place entirely in the hostage-taken studio, I feel this would have been a true nail-biter. Instead it constantly shifts to various people trying to find out various things around New York City, and in the final act actually takes Clooney out onto the streets. When the characters leave the studio, all the tension and uneasiness follow.
The film also doesn’t have a message. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say Foster tries to present both sides of the argument and be fair, and in doing so it makes some people look like idiots and others just look mean, but in the end a definitive side, either with or against investors, would have had more of an impact.
“Money Monster” isn’t award-caliber work but it is solid entertainment, especially for Clooney fans. If you’re just looking for a rainy afternoon flick to kick back and enjoy, this is that kind of film. It isn’t necessarily memorable, but in the moment I was, for a majority of the runtime, having a blast.
Critics Rating: 7/10
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