Money Monster is a movie that seems like it’s so obviously trying for an Oscar that I had to wonder why it had a May release date. We’re just starting summer blockbuster season which means that most major releases are going to be either an action film or a children’s film of one form or another, the movies that are going to get entire families who have time off over the summer to get their butts into a movie theater seat for a couple hours. So why is a film starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and directed by Jodie Foster about an angry “average Joe” American taking a TV studio hostage to get across his message coming out now, and not closer to Christmas when we see the award contenders?
For the first half of the film, I thought my worries were unfounded, and that perhaps I was just being cynical and the filmmakers only cared about making a good film more than awards, or that they were using a different technique in the hopes of making Money Monster stand out from its competition. The acting for the first part of the film was quite good, and the script even better. It showed that it wasn’t shy about tackling complexities in both character and plot without treating its audience like children. Motivations and subtleties were expressed through action and realistic conversation rather than through speeches and it seemed as if they weren’t going for a theme as basic and infantile as “poor people good, rich people bad.” Most everyone involved in the main story arc seemed to have both virtues and flaws making them real three dimensional people.
The second half of Money Monster unfortunately, threw all of that out of the window in favor of an overly trite, pat ending which was not only as unrealistic as the first half was reality based, but could also be seen coming from a mile and a half away. Gone were the delicate themes and subtle characterizations to be replaced by true ham-fistedness. We no longer had characters, but caricatures, and scrutiny of differing philosophies regarding what’s happening to our current economy was replaced with a witch hunt mentality. By the time the end credits began their scroll nearly all my good will for Money Monster had been lost as I wondered what had happened to that absolutely engrossing story I’d begun the night with.
Money Monster is a very frustrating movie, because there really is quite a bit to like about it. Clooney (the host, Lee Gates) and O’Connel (the gunman, Kyle Budwell) both give fantastic performances, though Roberts (the director, Patty Fenn) phones it in, the dialogue is very well written, and the plot is very tight with little wasted time. But, I just cannot ultimately recommend it, as I feel its target audience will find it too blunt and simplistic in the tackling of its ideas, and those outside its target audience will find little to keep their attention for its entire length.
So, why was Money Monster released in May? Because its backers knew it wouldn’t be a realistic award contender, and the names involved in the making of the movie are so big that maybe a release toward the start of the blockbuster season could get enough of an audience to make a profit. That would be my guess, anyway.
Rating: 4.6 out of 10