Friday, May 13, 2016


Opening this weekend:

Money MonsterGeorge Clooney plays a buffoonish TV financial pundit in the Jim Cramer mold. Julia Roberts plays the long-suffering director of the silly show he hosts, and Jack O’Connell plays the scruffy disgruntled loser with a gun who takes him hostage on the air, demanding to know what happened to the $60,000 he lost to an investment that the TV guy claimed was safer than his savings account.

The screenwriters, Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf and Jamie Linden, aren’t exactly Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, but they do manage to give the dialogue a certain amount of snarky, unpredictable wit, and the director, Jodie Foster, stirs up a lot of whirling frenzy around what is essentially a static situation. So the movie generates a Front Page-like energy that carries us along quite enjoyably, even as the story’s complications grow harder and harder to swallow.

It helps that Clooney, who also co-produced, doesn’t seem to mind looking like a stooge onscreen. We’re asked to believe that, in this crisis situation, the host, director and crew of this show would swing into action as highly competent investigative journalists, swiftly tracking down the secret that led to the loss of the guy’s money. But helping us accept this laughable conceit is the look on Clooney’s face—scared, but also glum and guilty; the look of a man who has known all along, at some level, that he’s just a shill, but is only now confronted with the reality of his irresponsibility.

Roberts gives a maternal authority to her role—she’s as much a nanny as a director—and some of the other actors, notably Christopher Denham, Giancarlo Esposito, Caitrona Balfe, Lenny Venito, Emily Meade, Dennis Boutsikaris and Condola Rashad, bring speed, charm and a surprising amount of comedy to what they’re given. Money Monster is too conventional, too close to superficial, to be a really scary monster—I doubt it could be considered much more subtle in its dissection of matters financial than the shows it's spoofing. But it’s fast and well-made and entertaining, and the cast gives it heart.

A personal note: I was sworn to secrecy until it opened, but my pal Gayle Bass, lovely co-host of Right This Minute, appears briefly in Money Monster, playing the complex role of Gayle Bass, lovely co-host of Right This Minute. So even if there was no other reason to see it…

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