Jodi Foster is one of the great American actresses; recently she’s been moving into directing after a stint in TV with Orange is the New Black. She’s also done a few films, but none as mainstream as her newest showing: Money Monster. It is a bold move by Foster, and unfortunately it doesn’t completely work out.
Money Monster is the story of a financial TV show host named Lee Gates (George Clooney) and how he is taken hostage by an angry man named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) who has lost all his savings on a faulty stock prediction made on Lee’s show. Meanwhile Lee’s producer Patty (Julia Roberts) tries to deal with the situation, as she is forced to televise the events live, and deal with an aggressive police.
The script for this film is incredibly solid, even if it does fluctuate towards the unrealistic at the end. Otherwise the dialogue and general story and plot is original and well written. Going into the film I was expecting a financial movie, like Wall Street or even The Big Short, but this turned out to be a film much more focused on the journalism aspect of the story rather than the economic. The story really plays around with the journalistic themes seen in other movies like Nightcrawler and The Truman Show, where we see how intrigued viewers are to the private lives and the peril of others. A better title would have been “Freak Journalism.”
Ms. Foster did ok in several aspects of her directing. For example I really enjoyed how she directed her two main actors (George Clooney and Julia Roberts). Foster really is able to play to both actors’ strengths; Clooney is cast a buffoon-like jerk which he is known to play well (not that he himself is as a person). Meanwhile Roberts shines as the commander of the situation and as a woman trying to keep her calm in a crisis. Roberts is snappy and quirky with her lines, which was something we all loved from her performances in Pretty Woman, Erin Brockovich, etc. O’Connell, meanwhile, was given a bit too much free rein and he overdoes his character; making him a loud nuisance.
But the main problem with Foster’s directing wasn’t O’Connell, but rather how she directed the film’s emotional aspects. I feel that Foster wasn’t really able to create good connection between the characters in the film and the actual plot. You can certainly see that the script has certain intentions that Foster maybe didn’t feel like delving too much into, and that causes for some loss of character development and film depth. Foster seemed to be making one kind of movie with her actors while the script was trying to make another. One key aspect was the climax of the film, which I feel was not credible whatsoever and a lot of forced and unnecessary humor was crammed in. The actors were almost goofy and calm; it completely scrapped any possible tension.
In the end I was left with a one-dimensional film that had the capacity and potential to be an exploration of the problems of Wall Street and their clash with middle class America. Instead I fear that Foster decided to go more mainstream and play it safe, and thus lost the original intention of the screenwriters. However, the skeleton of the original script still stands strong, and the Roberts-Clooney duo delivers some very satisfactory moments.