Occupy The Screen
If not a stylist in the slightest, Jodie Foster is a very smart lady and a capable director with a keen flair for tone. Both funny and utterly pessimistic, Money Monster brings welcome memories of (admittedly better) movies like Network, and there are much worse associations than this one. Presenting the alliance of computer trading and cable television as a weapon of mass destruction, of value as well as lives, Mrs Foster packs up a convincing case, if not escaping all traps of such a complex subject having to be laid out and resolved in 138 minutes, which by the way breeze by as if they were 98, one of the best possible compliments for a movie in our age of bloated freak shows.
The Ibis corporation took a plunge of 800 M$ after a “glitch” affected its high-speed trading, this mere weeks after Lee Gates, star anchor of the Money Monster cable programme, has deemed its share safer than any life insurance policy. Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), one of the 99%, having lost everything, breaks in the TV studio, takes Gates hostage, put an explosive vest on him and asks for answers. They prove difficult to get, as Ibis’ CEO has vanished. Gates can only rely on himself, and on Patty Fenn, the studio director (Julia Roberts).
It is not useless to underline that the ibis is the animal form of the Egyptian God of Knowledge, due to its ability to make the difference between drinkable and corrupt water, a form of wisdom which all concerned are deprived of, intoxicated as they are with the promise of money acquired faster than the speed of light, thanks to inscrutable algorithms in a world shrunk to a few stock exchange places. Greed, once heralded as good, is still the same, though, and for lack of a better word, greed is a bulimic monster that cannot be satiated.
There is a measure of squeamishness in having close friends Clooney and Roberts sharing top billing. Both are consummate professionals, but it is hard not to think once or twice during Money Monster that they are not stretching their acting chops to a dangerous extent in it. Clooney is his usual jerk with a heart of gold and easy empathy to his fellow humans, whatever disturbed they are, and Roberts is her trademark strong woman whose inner vulnerability allow her to act noble instead of curt. They make the show, however, since the other actors are something of a white noise, except Emily Meade as Molly, the hostage taker’s girlfriend, who is brought on the air to mollify him and has one excellent, enraged scene.
Money Monster wears its ideas on its sleeve, but they are treated without naivety. On one hand Mrs Foster is obviously sympathetic to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and clearly thinks that unregulated finance is the enemy. If something catastrophic occurs, blame it on computer programming, on Europe, on the ways of the world. Never blame yourself for your mistakes regarding others as long as you make a load out of them. Last time one checked, this was the 21st century definition of capitalism, a battle of financial kaijus eradicating industrial sectors or countries alike. On the other hand, her movie is pessimistic as hell regarding the ability of the common man to make any change to this current state of affairs. There are a couple of chilling moments towards the end of the movie, one an enthusiastic flash mob marching in support of Kyle Budwell, only to vanish like a flock of sheep as a gun is fired, the other the immediate loss of interest for whatever the same had to say when his fate is sealed. Case closed, let’s have a commercial break. “What kind of programme will we have tomorrow?” ask Lee Gates to Penny, whom Drama Day has obviously brought together (again).
Ending up in memes and tweets like most things do whenever they start nowadays, Money Monster sums up in a rather tight bundle a sizable portion of what is going wrong in our wretched century, bringing short attention span disorder in the realm of terminal illness. We don’t have enough memory to process everything happening at the speed it is happening. Our short bursts of indignation are followed by long bouts of complacency. If money has always been the root of evil, it is now a very modern and capable monster indeed.