Sony Pictures 138 minutes R
News is drama, but when it becomes a life or death situation inside a newsroom, it’s compelling. This film drew our attention for more than one reason. It’s hard to lose with an all star cast of George Clooney and Julie Roberts together again, and directed by Jodie Foster, an Oscar winning star in her own right. And having worked in TV news with breaking stories and hostage situations, we could feel the adrenaline rush as an irate intruder took over the set. We also get some fun dark comedy along the way to lighten things up. Writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf did a great job with the script creating believable dialogue.
George Clooney says he knew from the get go that he was in good hands with Foster. And Julia Roberts jumped in to do the movie, her fourth time working with Clooney. She says she loved that the story had all these moving parts that dealt with some people in control of their own lives mixed with others who were out of control.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, the Money Monster, who is a nauseating showman giving viewers tips on where to stash their money in the stock market. Foster says it was Clooney’s idea to jazz up the character by having him dance with backup dancers in glitzy costumes and that he actually practiced his dance routines. But that all comes to a screeching halt when delivery man, unexpectedly shows up on the set with a bomb. Kyle, played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken), puts a wired vest on Gates that he can control with a thumb switch. He threatens to blow up the whole studio and everybody in it. Why? Because he listened to Money Monster Gates. He invested and lost all the money he had inherited from his mother who had recently died and now he’s in even more debt.
Julia Roberts, normally cool as a cucumber in the control room as the show’s producer, Patty. She has to ride a fine line to keep the show going while following the pathetic Kyle’s orders and keep the studio staff safe. That includes Gates, who, moments before, she would have gladly seen blown away for all the aggravation he causes her on a daily basis being obnoxious and unprepared. Patty’s a pro and he is a buffoon, but now the show must go on to keep them all alive! At one point, Patty is told, this is good journalism and she quips, “We don’t do good journalism. Hell, we don’t do journalism.” Common criticism of news today.
During the ordeal, we discover more about the financial world. Walt Canby, played by Dominic West (The Affair TV series, upcoming voice in Finding Dory), plays an elusive billionaire who gave Gates the tip that caused Kyle to lose his life savings. Gates can never find him, like now! Walt’s stand-in is Chief of Communications, Diane Lester played by Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), already booked to be on the show. She’s beautiful and smart but having her own problems with the boss. She’s also having trouble convincing Patty that she can find him and get answers.
Clooney and O’Connell are convincing in their tense relationship. It’s fun to see them bounce off each other although many of their scenes were shot separately. It works. And O’Connell praised Clooney. “He’s always there for ya. Good crack as well. He likes to have a laugh and that, when the time’s right.”
Foster says it’s more about the relationships between these people and there’s a brotherhood that grows between the two men. She describes Gates as a shallow, smug, empty guy who is considered successful but is really a failure. Clooney likes that it’s more about the characters than the machinations of the financial world. He jokes that as the self-involved TV personality, “the infinite threat of death makes you look at things very differently.” Clooney thinks the film will resonate with audiences because people don’t like to get scammed. You see the story through the eyes of the little guy who’s lost everything and even the cynical Gates starts to understand where he’s coming from. And the two have some nervous, but funny moments as they get to know each other.
Tension builds in the studio as Roberts and Gates try to keep things calm. That works. But when Kyle and Gates walk out of the studio to find Walt to get some answers, we found it a little silly. Watching them walk Wall Street lined with heckling crowds and police was just too unrealistic.
Is this worth your bucks? Foster calls it a thrilling ride that forces you to learn how to be as smart as you can be and a little cynical about the social political world today. You may also learn a little about where how much technology is available today to get information and profiles of all of us. The film shows that’s good and bad, depending on what side you’re on. But seeing Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell interact in this tension filled drama is entertaining and thought provoking. We suggest you invest in this one.