Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Film: "Money Monster"

Wall Street apparently isn't immune to Hollywood's continuing depiction of its multi-faceted life. Akin to comedy/tragedy, the financial institutions' fragility/volatility has stories on both sides of its coin. Last year's "The Big Short", which I found completely fascinating, told interwoven stories of investors who foresaw the inevitable collapse of the housing market and even when some of those courageous enough to sound the alarm did so, few, if any, heeded the warning.  Which brings me to Jodie Foster's "Money Monster", a pastiche of hostage taking, revenge, collusion and truth-searching that does, somehow, fit all of the pieces together through a ninety-minute screenplay. 

Falling shy (in a big way) of the ambition and breadth of "The Big Short", "Money Monster" stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, a sort of "Richard Simmons" (not in THAT way) of Wall Street whose weekly live 'MONEY MONSTER' show gives financial/investor advice to hapless Wall Street 
investors much like a Pez dispenser dishes out pellets of candy to kids on Halloween. He's a showman, a master manipulator of his three ring circus who's "wham, bang, thank you ma'am" approach to investments in the stock market has yet to go of yet. 

Lee's long-suffering producer/director Patti Fenn (Julia Roberts, with a pinpoint performance)is a no-nonsense, experienced director whose kinda sorta "had it" with Lee and who has accepted another job across the street. 

Julia Roberts as "Money Monster" director Patti Fenn. 

On Patti's last episode with Lee, the station and the broadcast is jarringly interrupted by Kyle Budwell, a downtrodden gun-toting stranger who straps Lee to a homemade vest (complete with incendiary device) and compels Lee to provide or seek an answer as to why IBIS CLEAR CAPITAL - a company whose stock Lee has been touting for months - lost him and his fellow investors some $800 million dollars through a computer glitch. "It was my entire savings!" shouts Budwell. 

George Clooney as Lee Gates, host of reality show  "Money Monster".

"Lee Gates" entertaining the investors on 'Money Monster'.
While Lee does his best to keep Kyle from blowing up the station, Patti and her crew work diligently behind the scenes to connect the dots between people who may (or may not) have been responsible for the glitch and in the end, uncover more than they hoped. 

Jack O'Connell plays the troubled and revenge seeking Kyle Budwell who takes George Clooney's Lee Gates hostage  

Because all of this is airing on live television, Kyle becomes somewhat of a celebrity "hero" as his full 15 minutes of fame pass by with every move and counter-move this screenplay takes. 

As tension builds, Budwell insisits on meeting
the head of IBIS CAPITAL in order to extract
an apology or even a recognition that what Wall Street
is not about the 'little guy'. 

Jodie Foster has, of course, very capable hands as a director; this movie is as solid as it can be. Clooney, for example, has the tougher role as he needs to change from complete, self-absorbed asshole to empowered, caring, truth-seeker within the confines of the screenplay and he does so adequately. Roberts stays at the same controlled 'note' the entire movie as Patti - a seasoned professional who knows what to do and how to do it well - a character who is needed to ground the tension in the film and even diffuses it now and then with some humor....("Sacagawea Lee!" she screams, their code for ShutUp!).

Her character has a second wind in the latter half of the film as the climax to Kyle's standoff occurs. 

O'Connell (with a slightly overdone New Yawk accent) is effective, nonetheless, as he can be in the role of Budwell. It would have been nice to see even more tension and conflict come from his character earlier in the film, although when all hell breaks loose towards the latter half of the film, O'Connell is spot on. 

But, being solid limits the scope of possibilities and I would have liked to have seen a bit more from the screenplay in terms of plot, meaning, depth and tension. The denouement of the film is exactly how I left the theater...unaffected and uninterested. In a word, it's was what I expected and what I did NOT expect... at the same time.