|'The story simply fails to resonate as it should thanks to some disappointingly safe fictionalising during the final act, which could easily have been replaced with one of countless recent historical examples to improve matters'.|
From one perspective, director Jodie Foster is unfortunate that Money Monster has been released only a matter of months after The Big Short. Adam McKay's mostly-non-fictional comedy-drama put the 2008 financial crisis front and centre of all that it does, and the director made no bones about his feelings towards those who helped manufacture the crisis or what happened during the years that followed. In comparison, the plot of Money Monster - not based on real life but just as tied to the fallout of 2008 - feels somewhat limp. The big reveal of what shady-CEO-cum-pantomime-villain Walt Camby (Dominic West) has actually been doing with his investors' money during the denouement just pales in comparison to anything reported, or indeed recreated in films such as McKay's, during the last eight years.
To be frank, however, Foster should have recognised the somewhat hokey '90s thriller feel of the script's climax all the way back in 2012 when she was first attached to direct. Even if Money Monster had predated The Big Short, its story arc would still have felt remarkably out of touch with the post-2008 world. Making comparisons with superior films sharing a similar theme feels a little too generous: the story simply fails to resonate as it should thanks to some disappointingly safe fictionalising during the final act, which could easily have been replaced with one of countless recent historical examples to improve matters.
It's a shame, because up to the reveal of its central mystery Money Monster builds a satisfying set-up between its key players. In what initially looks like an excuse for George Clooney to prat around in a variety of silly costumes, Lee Gates gradually transforms into one of the actor's most interesting and developed characters of the last few years. His relationship with Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), the director of his titular TV show, is a world away from that seen between Clooney and Roberts in the Ocean's trilogy, but achieves the same pleasing chemistry despite the fact that the two share only minutes of screen time together.
Most successful of all, however, is the dynamic achieved between Lee and Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), the man who takes him hostage live on his own show. Money Monster is at its best when Lee and Kyle are trading lines with Patty directing the situation through Lee's earpiece in both a literal sense and, at times, to make the on-air hijacking better viewing. The satire here is occasionally too blunt, with many of the messages about the television audience's reaction to what they're seeing done better before (The Truman Show immediately comes to mind as a superior example). But when Foster gets these elements right - mostly during the film's middle act - Money Monster is genuinely both insightful and entertaining in a way you wish the director had achieved throughout.