15. Money Monster,
directed by Jodie Foster

15. Money Monster,
directed by Jodie Foster

When You Give Advice That Turns Out to

Be Shitty and They Come to Get Payback


If a good thriller makes you just as excited as it makes you bite off your fingernails, then you’ll love Money Monster. The key facts you need to know? Live television. Narcissistic, rich presenter. Gunman. Hostage situation. Bombs. Still live television. Yeah, it’s little surprise that this movie is just about exploding with adrenaline.

Taking place amidst the hustle and madness of New York, we are taken into the hub of the high-stakes financial world. Amping up the drama of finance, the show Money Monster uses all the sonic bells and whistles of technology to broadcast the latest stock market news, theories and advice to millions of viewers daily. Heading the show is Lee Gates, a swarmy George Clooney, who on one hand is darn good at his job, and on the other is entirely pig-headed, with his love of ham extending to his prancing around on set, complete with props and the occasional dance move. Tolerating him (but only just) is his producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts).

Typical to our simplistic viewing standards, the show’s tacky approach draws people in. One person who’s been keenly listening to Lee’s financial advice is Kyle Budwell. When Lee previously commented that Ibis Clear Capital was “safer than your savings account”, Kyle desperately invested every dime into the company. Only the company wasn’t safer than a savings account, in fact it was headed straight for the garbage heap. What it all comes down to, according to Ibis CEO Walt Camby, is an “isolated glitch”. It really is unfortunate that a glitch can lose investors eight hundred million, but you know, apparently it can happen.

Fuelled by injustice and the crippling reality of economic ruin, Kyle sneaks into the studio, live to air, armed with a gun and a vest stuffed with homemade bombs. I’ll repeat again, live to air. If the broadcast is disconnected, Kyle warns, frothing at the lips, he will light the place up. Propelling the action along is the music, which beats rapidly like a palpitating heart. There is no end to the tension, and Foster strings us along, cutting from studio to TV screens across America, where different audiences sit transfixed.

Kyle (Jack O’Connell) gets acquainted with Lee  (George Clooney). (Tristar Pictures)

The action and its accompanying tension may draw the viewer in, but it’s the slow arcing reformation of George Clooney’s character that holds us there, clutched in the claws of potential catastrophe. Seeing him squirm his way from grub to eventual semi-flying moth is rather beautiful to behold. Kyle too is a multi-faceted figure, a man of desperation, raw power and utter fragility. I’m a huge fan of Jack O’Connell, ever since his powerful portrayal of Cook in Skins (second generation), and with a lesser actor, the emotional impact of the movie would fall apart. As Kyle, he has nothing and everything to lose, typified in the films most soul-destroying moment when Kyle’s girlfriend delivers a monologue live through Skype. Beamed across the country, his character is cut open, exposing his life so unreservedly that we can understand him. Foster lets us sit in this trench of heart-breaking discovery for a rare moment of pure silence and stillness.

At its heart, this is a character piece, with every second hinging on these people – what are their motives, their responses, and ultimately, do we care about them? In a high-stakes scenario like this, it’s imperative that we actually do give a damn about every character. This is a perfect vehicle for a director like Foster, a brilliant actor herself, who yields nuanced performances out of her actors.

Jodie Foster directing O’Connell on the set of Money Monster. (Sony Pictures)

The other side to this thriller is the satirical gaze directed towards Wall Street and our contemporary society. It feels highly relevant to, and observational of today. For example, as the drama escalates within the studio, other stations pick up on it, fuelling shows within shows, and news of news, in a modern spin of a play within a play. It is a commonplace practice of modern news; this live commentary of live action, mirrored and publicised into infinity, snowballing in size as more and more attention is turned towards it. Shielded behind television screens, our tendency to distance ourselves from emotional reality is also touched upon. People watch the action unfold like they would a scripted show. It’s a rather sad observation that these days feelings like greed have a stronger effect on most of us than ones like empathy.

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