This film about a gyrating TV show anchor advising people on money matters, wearing a shiny wizard hat and a dollar-shaped necklace, has its heart in the right place. Its mind though is all muddled.
All the cliches are played out, and to slick perfection, by Clooney as aforesaid anchor Lee Gates (ostensibly modelled on Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money) — down to the overt sexism and the unbidden sexuality.
When an investor who has lost all his savings acting upon advice given by Gates, Kyle (O’Connell), barges into the TV set while Gates is on air with a gun and a bomb, those cliches get further underlined. Gates is polished and smug, Kyle desperate and workman-like. There is nothing Gates does that seems genuine, Kyle’s half-explained story is seen to be entirely believable.
Still, this part of the film, establishing the dynamics between Gates, Kyle and the director of the show, Patty (Roberts), who is on constant touch with Gates through an earpiece, is unsettled enough to keep the audience on the edge. Roberts is especially good as her role almost entirely involves emoting through her voice, but even Clooney nicely moderates his charisma to appear desperate and downright unlikable in parts. In a nice touch, Kyle gets distracted by the thought of how he is looking and sounding on air.
However, Money Monster eventually doesn’t turn out to be about the bad capitalists after all, even though Occupy Wall Street too gets thrown at Gates. Somewhere in the middle, it makes a half-hearted attempt at being a thriller, with Gates and Patty lining themselves up with the small investor and committing time, efforts, manpower and, hilariously, some hackers to look for the CEO (West) whose company Ibis lost Kyle his money, in an unexplained $800 million crash. The eventual explanation sinks whatever hopes vested in the film.
If the Money Monster has its moments, it is the two times it breaks away from expected lines — when Gates appeals to people’s “better selves” to invest a little money in Ibis to lift its stocks (as half-brained an idea as any, but this is live TV after all), and when police put Kyle’s girlfriend on screen to appeal to him. In one dazzling outburst, she puts him in his place like the film could have.
Directed by Jodie Foster
Starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West