Money Monster Parent Review
The good lessons that could have be learned here are sacrificed for supposed artistic benefits and comedic gains.
Investigative journalism is in critical condition and business ethics are a mess—those are the messages director Jodie Foster appears to want to convey in her real time thriller Money Monster. George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a financial talk show host who is much more interested in theatrics, goofy dances and tacky props than he is about careful economic analysis. A few weeks prior to the show he’s just about to open, Gates gave a glowing buy signal for investing with Ibis Clear Capital. But, as is often the case, his prediction turned sour when the trading company’s algorithm had a mysterious glitch and stocks plummeted. Today one of his viewers, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), is determined to hold Gates responsible.
Budwell makes his way into the secure studio by posing as a courier. Once inside, he hijacks the live show and holds the TV personality at gunpoint while forcing him to don an explosive vest. Meanwhile the program’s producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) watches helplessly from the control room as Gates now hosts an angered guest demanding to know why and how he lost his life savings. With Fenn still able to communicate with Gates through a discreet earpiece, she begins to remember what “real” journalism is and starts to track down the elusive CEO (Dominic West) of the offending company to see if there is more to the story than what the public has been told.
Part of the film’s tense conflict is derived from having the action play out in real time—or at least that’s what the promotional materials imply. The movie is barely an hour and a half long, so that means super-producer Patty Fenn has to dig up sources, find answers to tough questions and make miracles happen in minutes—a process that would typically take days or weeks to complete. This time compression contributes to the unconvincing conclusion that is too dependent on serendipity. Then there’s Gates ongoing satirical verbiage (Clooney in his typical role) which would be unlikely to release pressure if this were an actual situation.
Even more unfortunate is that the themes of media’s lost integrity and business’ broken principles are obscured behind needless profanities, brief but overt sexual content and a couple of scenes of recreational drug use. Like the recent Oscar nominated The Big Short, the good lessons that could be learned here are sacrificed for supposed artistic benefits and comedic gains. A joke surrounding a newly released sample of erectile cream results in a moment of spontaneous sexual activity between a man and woman (lots of sound and thrusting are depicted without explicit nudity). The more than 70 uses of a sexual expletive in this script (one used in a sexual context) appear to be a gratuitous attempt to reinforce the seriousness of the crisis.
By the time the police are at a stand-off with the armed madman, the story has unfolded in such a predictable way that neither the audience sitting in the theater nor the one depicted on the big screen, seem very concerned about the outcome. While the posed public appear to lose interest because they’ve seen this sort of sensational thing on TV too many times, those paying for their seats are more likely to disconnect because the promising premise has dissolved into yet another mediocre thriller. Sadly, the script barely addresses the culpability of the media. It never explores the issue of television programs like Money Monster, which may be seen as entertainment by the companies that produce them, yet are often interpreted as serious financial advice by those who watch. And bad business practices get off with just a reprimand. In the closing moments of the movie Fenn and Gates muse about what they should do on next week’s show. I find it hard to believe that in-depth reporting or calling companies to account will be on the top of the priority list.Directed by Jodie Foster. Starring Julia Roberts, Giancarlo Esposito, George Clooney. Running time: 99 minutes. Updated September 8, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Money Monster here.
Money Monster Parents Guide
In the opening moments of this movie, the producer (Julia Roberts) of the Money Monster show satirically observes, “We don’t do journalism…” What does she mean? How has their program evolved from being about financial news into being about entertainment? What real TV shows can you think of that do that too? Why might audiences want more entertainment than news when selecting what to watch?
A disgruntled viewer (Jack O’Connell) that has been burned by the advice of the host (George Clooney) takes the man to task. Should the host be held accountable for the faulty information he shared? How much investigation do you think was done before presenting the material on the air? How much responsibility does the viewer have to check the facts on his own rather than just believing what he hears on TV? Does the media try to persuade its audience to think TV personalities are experts? How can you know the difference?
A business tycoon (Dominic West) in this film points out that, “No one asks questions as long as you are making money.” What does he mean? How might greed justify turning a blind eye to ethics? How do attitudes change when an investment fails? Does success excuse questionable practices, or should businesses operate honestly regardless of the outcome?