RogerEbert.com — Money Monster

Money Monster Movie ReviewDrop Jim Cramer into “Network” and you have “Money Monster” — and yet the result never ends up being quite as thrilling or thought-provoking as that premise sounds. Jodie Foster’s direction is lean and efficient, though, and George Clooney and Julia Roberts have crackling chemistry as always. My mixed RogerEbert.com review.

Read the review here

7 Comments on “RogerEbert.com — Money Monster

  1.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: Being to Literal

    While I applaud any movie out there today, which attempts to wrestle with this theme about money and power in modern day times – in the case of this movie – I suspect that ‘power and money’, was not the opportunity to explore something, that this movie should have chosen. This movie as a project (this ‘script’ if it were), had an opportunity to explore something else – something that is relate to power and related to movie – without having to hitch it’s wagon directly on to that theme.

    I remember, around 2010, the economist in America Paul Krugman was invited to the London School of Economics to deliver a prestigious series of lectures there. They have to be delivered in three consecutive parts, on three consecutive days. I remember at the time, I studied the three parts of Krugman’s LSE lectures in detail. One thing that Krugman mentioned though, did stand out to me. He explained that in the lead up to the financial crisis, he had been as guilty as anyone else had been of missing some of the key signs. He tried to explain a little of how that had happened. He explained, that in his mind and in that of many other observers, they had been too literal in what they had expected a bank, to look like.

    He actually reached back to the movies, to offer a point of reference. He explained, that before the financial crisis, many including himself had understood a bank, as being something like the institution that Jimmy Stewart (the actor), would have run. He explained, that in the early 21st century, that idea of what a bank is, had been too literal. It is what led to many experts like Krugman, missing some very obvious signs.

    This theme has been explored in a little more depth of late, I have noticed, by a former financial regulator in Great Britain, Lord Adair Turner. Turner was a regular speaker and contributor at the school in London, where Krugman had delivered his series of talks in 2010. If one were to find some kind of unified theory, about ’99 Homes’, about ‘The Big Short’ and so on, Turner’s text published late last year, is about the best I know.

    This movie, Money Monster, reminds me of the comments I heard Krugman make in London in 2010. Often, we can attempt to be too literal. I believe, that since 2008, 2009 and 2010, we have all witnessed something in political life, in economics, in public life in general – which has caught the attention of many. What we have seen, frequently and in different ways, is a level of detachment, on the part of those who are in positions of influence. It is noticeable the extent to which, the massive efforts to ‘bail out’, have resulted in a world where some lives continued without any dramatic change – and other lives, have been ripped apart.

    It is a theme that is related to the one of power and money – which those, who appear to be promoting the movie ‘Money Monster’, wish to talk about. The much more interesting and deeper statement of the movie ‘Money Monster’, I suspect, is that one which actor George Clooney’s character had tried to explore – that one of detachment. In the movie, there is an example on exhibition, this money adviser, this celebrity of the financial markets – who finds out that the world – that he may have been detached from, enters into his own world by some strange event. Again, this theme, which is a worthwhile and a strong one, for a movie project like ‘Mad Money’ to explore – could be treated in too ‘literal’ a way.

    One is back to this thing again, of trying too hard to latch on to themes, for the sake of it, instead of allowing the story and the characters, to take a direction of their own. This I suspect, is the missed opportunity of this money project. Qualifying that, in the knowledge, that I adore seeing the movie making artists and directors, tackling this important subject – but not to an extent – where it has to interrupt their own process, their own art making. The financial crisis, even the most large and most destructive, come and go. The process of making art work, is something that needs to continue, even in a Great Depression – heck it’s what brought humanity out of it’s ‘stone age’ – out of the cave world, and into the light.

    The ‘cave’ that humanity has been retreating into since the financial crash of 2008, has not been ‘power’ and ‘money’. Instead, it has been detachment, separation of one individual’s world, from that of another. Boris Johnson, in the United Kingdom created a lot of publicity on today’s date for attacks that he launched upon a ‘European Project’ – one project of social and economic integration, which started with the best of intention – and in recent years, since the crisis started, people all around Europe now have all witnessed it, the same. The levels of detachment now, of folk who are at the center of that project, from life and reality, of the guy in the street.

    ‘Money Monster’, may have stumbled across something interesting there, and instead of exploring it, missed out on that opportunity. It’s an opportunity, which still beckons on a horizon, waiting for someone to seize.

  2.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: Poor Reviewing

    In the ‘What the Flick’ review, and interview with the movie’s director, which were all very enjoyable – there was something to notice. The ‘panel’ on ‘What the Flick’, immediately reached for another movie project, ‘Inside Man’, about a bank hoist job, to compare ‘Money Monster’ to.

    One could extend the point, of the movie project, ‘Money Monster’ being too literal. In fact, the review panel, who tried to review the movie, were perhaps guilty of the same error – that of becoming too literal – in searching for comparison.

    What was interesting, was the kinds of movies, that no one discussed in either the interview with the movie’s director, or on the subsequent panel review – a movie, which I might add, did explore the theme very well, that I identified overhead. That is the theme of detachment, of individuals in positions of influence, from others.

    A movie, called ‘Michael Clayton’ which happened to be a project, George Clooney was attached with, was very good at exploring that theme. In that movie, the script and the story centers around this ‘choice’ that this character Michael Clayton is faced with. He can choose to go either way. The choice that the character is faced with in that movie, is one of choosing to ignore the levels of detachment he has witnessed, or to do something about the same. Actually, in the end, it is the ham-fisted and heavy handed way in which a company tried to ‘wipe out’ Michael Clayton, that eventually pushes this character to act. It is a more subtle way of dealing with an idea of extreme detachment, where a moral conflict is allowed to play out, within the character of Clayton – instead of having Clooney’s character become the subject of a kidnapping and hostage situation – as in ‘Money Monster’.

    Another movie, which was not mentioned in either the interview with this movie’s director, or in the subsequent panel review on ‘What the Flick’, was a movie in which Julia Roberts acted. A movie, called ‘Erin Brockovich’, was a movie in which the theme of detachment of a certain group – who ought to exercise a social responsibility of some kind, and didn’t – is brought into the light, and sharply into focus for the movie audience.

    Again, this was a performance and a piece of movie making art work, which was ignore by the panel in all discussion about ‘Money Monster’. And I believe, it is because both the ‘team’ associated with this movie project, and subsequently, those reviewing that same project – did not understand what theme it was – they were actually dealing with, and ought to chase after, in characters, plot etc.

    This tells us a lot. Maybe though, the great man Cenk will swoop in, like one of those super hero’s and save the day, with his ‘My Take’ on this, and restore order and balance into the universe once again. B.

  3.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: Interview with Ben

    I read into information about ‘Money Monster’ movie more lately, listened to reviews and interview again. The question it left me with, is one about the view that the establishment has today, of that generation who were left job-less and money-less by the financial crisis. Is the view of that generation, one that so easily accepts that the loss of a sum of fifty thousand dollars, is enough to turn individuals into bombers? Has the level of admiration for that generation of millenials in America sunk now, down to such a level that that is how this generation has to be portrayed? Always?

    Looking at Ben’s excellent interview with the movie director of ‘Money Monster’ one thing did jump out on the second or third listen. One can go back to an earlier generation of young person, who were ‘up against it’, and had to over come odds. In the interview with Ben, the mention was made of the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ movie project – would anyone involved in that movie project – ever be that good again? People were at the top of their game, for that movie and that script. At the center of it, and at the top of her game, was the young actor Jodie Foster. She had a task in that movie, to play the part of the young FBI agent, who came from relative obscurity and was thrown into the midst of an important FBI investigation – unexpectedly.

    One looks at a movie, such as ‘Silence of the Lambs’ now, which Ben and his interviewee had discussed, after 25 years What was happening in that movie, in that story, in those characters? What we do find, is that the theme of ‘detachment’ is one theme that was strong in ‘Silence of the Lambs’. It just so happens, that movie, because it has characters, plots and visuals, is a medium that is really good at exploring that theme of detachment, which is important in telling a story about the entire human condition.

    In the ‘Silence of the Lambs’, one had detachment explored at different levels. It was coming, from three important and different directions. At the center, at the intersection between those three vectors, was the character played by actor Jodie Foster. She found herself trying to cope, at an intersection between three things. Firstly, her boss in the FBI places her into a situation, a sort of experiment played with the man who lived behind the ‘glass wall’ in the institution. There was detachment on the part of that law enforcement bureaucracy of the FBI, in how it treated the young FBI agent.

    There was also of course, an exploration of the theme of detachment, in the character of Dr. Lecktor himself played by Anthony Hopkins – his detachment was from the entire human race as it were – and paradoxically, the story tells of a strange attachment between the man who was extremely detached, and the young FBI agent who unexpectedly arrived. Lastly, there was the brilliant performance of the man who was managing director of the mental institution, which housed Dr. Lecktor in the basement of the facility. His detachment was very well explored both in the script and in the acting. To this man, Dr. Lecktor was his ticket to ride into glory, in the world of psychology and medicine.

    In the middle of all of this detachment, the young agent, the character played by Jodie Foster is thrown. Her character has to navigate some pathway between all of these obstacles and constraints – we as the audience join her character – in her experience, of that journey. Now that was an example of a movie project, which took the circumstances of the ‘young person’ who was up against it, and overcame challenges. One compares that, to a character who breaks into a television room, because of fifty thousand dollars. I don’t get that so much – how we can go from one representation of the condition of youth and vulnerability, and such ‘bad things’ happen to them – 25 years ago, in ‘Silence of the Lambs’, and we’ve ended up in 2016, with ‘high definition camera work’ etc, and we end up at ‘Money Monster’ ? ? ? B.

  4.  by  jozielee

    Hey Brian: Good to see you. You name so many good movies. Don’t think I saw Michael Clayton. Will have to give it a look see.

    We saw Money Monster today. Laughed, cheered, jeered, and appreciated some wonderful performances. I won’t give the plot away, but suffice to say we enjoyed the film more than expected. As Christy Lemire says in her Roger Ebert review, Money Monster is “a sure bet.” Humor saved it from being too self-serious while letting Clooney and Roberts flex their chops. The story wasn’t unique for our troubling financial and political times, yet didn’t feel outdated. Back in the day, when I first became aware of Jim Kramer (via Larry King’s nightly talk show) I laughed at his antics and thought I might be able to pick up stock tips from him as well. Thank goodness sanity prevailed. Something about his carnival-like program turned me off, Maybe he just talked too fast for me to figure out how to utilize his information. And didn’t Jon Stewart from the Daily Show confront Kramer for preying on gullible viewers?

    Great to see Caitriona Balfe, Claire from Outlander fame; and Dominic West, my favorite cheating husband from The Affair; Giancarlo Esposito from so many of my favorite teen-heartthrob films, and a couple cameos from Cenk.

    Gotta say I enjoyed the rap during closing credits. Good way to get folks up on their feet waltzing out of the theater.

    Jodie Foster hits a home run again!

    •  by  Brian O' Hanlon

      Re: Generations

      I worry, that a generation has grown up in American today – they will mature and grow old and maybe even die – and they will never have had that one classic movie that describes what they were about, in their youth and in their prime. Simply because the financial crash came along, and ensure that all movie projects that weren’t sure bets (i.e. superhero’s running around in spandex, that is airbrushed), get made.

      The real bummer, for the generation called the millennial’s, is that they’re either represented as folk, who are too inept to say their own name, . . . or the other extreme, they’re some mentally disturbed, that they’re forced into taking the law into their own hands. I mean, the generation who were all about revolution in the sixties and seventies, have things like Woodstock to point back to. They did revolution in a way that was cool and attractive in some way – even if it was misguided and dumb. I think about my own generation, the ‘disaffected’ generation. We’ve got stuff like grunge, to look back upon now. What have the millennials got? They’ve got squat – because the bankers who’re responsible for their being millennials – also pulled the finance, that might have gone towards showing these millennials, in something like their best light.

      I suspect, that maybe the movies that are made about the millennials that are the real classics, will be made in a time, far away from now. I’m thinking of movies about the Depression, something like the Grapes of Wrath, movies that were made by that generation about experiences long afterwards. And there was a lot that could be said about that generation too, a whole lot that could be said. I’m reminded of one PBS documentary, about the folk who used to ride around on trains all over the country. In a way, there was something that connected that generation, to the later one in the 1960’s. The folk who rode on railways in the 1930’s, came out of cities and urban areas. They ventured by railways into the remote rural parts of America (echoes of this, in film making like Easy Rider too, from later). To their astonishment, to poor young people from the Depression, saw for the very first time how hard it was, for many people around their nation. Prior to that, young people in the cities in America in the thirties, had no concept of what life was like for people, outside of the major cities.

      But I think this needs to be pointed out. The ‘character’ that is the millennial person, who is ‘under siege’ as it were, and too busy surviving to be bothered at present about movies, is represented in film in the two ways. The individual mad man or woman, who grasps the law into their own hands, and is pathetic. Or, the individual, who is too inept to even do that much. Those are the two extremes, the two simplified ways that this generation gets rendered. And the other one, of course, is where you put them into spandex clothing, and give them super powers – to be able to destroy whole planets etc.

      I’d be interested in ‘What the Flick’ panel doing a critical review, of movies in the past several years, from this point of view – maybe Alonso could put on his ‘teacher’s hat’, and teach us something about this? By way of contrast, many of ‘What the Flick’ panel, grew up when there were movies being made about their own generation, that tried to offer insights into the troubles of that one. You know the list, the ‘Brat pack’, the Elmo’s fire, and that whole ‘coming of age’ genre. There was a generation after my one, that had a classic movie that I’d never seen or heard of. It was called ‘American Pie’. It was like a guilty, secretive pleasure for that generation – they weren’t a social media generation – they came just before the social media generation. At every step along the way, in American history, I can point to some piece of work in cinema that achieves this.

      But for some reason, this generation, the millennial one in America, has totally got the greasy end of the pole. They’ve got nothing, to even suggest ‘high art’ in cinema making. They’ve been truly striped bare, and Money Monster doesn’t change that – if anything, it makes it even worse.

      You can look at other parts of the world too – Britain, Germany, Japan, Australia, South America etc. There was a movie made here in Europe, not long ago, about the 1930’s generation in Germany. It was called North Face, starring Benno Furmann, Florian Lukas, Johanna Wokalek. It was a movie, that got made many decades after (and of course, there were movies made in 1930’s Germany, that were made for that purposes of propaganda etc).

      This is mainly, why I drew a connection between Foster’s work in the Hannibal Lecktor movie years ago, and Money Monster. A lot of folk, think of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ as being a movie, about Dr. Lecktor. But really, all that his character was, was an amplification, that allowed us to appreciate what life was like from a point of view, of the young Jodie Foster’s character more. I think, unfortunately, that if ‘Silence of the Lambs’ was made now, it would become all about the Lecktor character, and Foster’s character would be scrubbed out entirely. It was the subtlety and skill of writing, directing and acting in Silence of the Lambs (by Anthony Hopkins in particular), that ensure that Lecktor remained as a strong character, but he was almost a supporting character to the one of Agent Starling.

      We don’t get that in ‘Money Monster’, we’re not allowed into that ‘world’ that is seen from a point of view of the young person, who invades the television studio. That’s the problem, with it as a movie. B.

  5.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: A movie’s cast from 40 years ago re-united for an interview

    Most fascinating short interview piece, of one of movies that director discussed with her interview with Ben on ‘What the Flick’, was on ‘Today’ show, from April 2016. Four actors and director of the movie, Taxi driver. An interesting thing about this brief chat with the cast of the movie from 40 years ago – is they discussed the ‘theme’ of the movie – which Scorsese believed, was the theme of isolation, loneliness of an individual in an urban environment. One would have to pause and reflect upon this comment from the director of that movie, and the movie itself from four decades ago. I thought it was worth a mention, in connection with the excellent interview that Ben did, about the movie ‘Money Monster’.

    I have to remark though, it did make me wonder – if ‘detachment’ and ‘loneliness’ are two sides of the same coin? Detachment is probably something that people of privilege get to enjoy to some extent. Loneliness is what folk from the other side of the tracks call it, when they are describing the same thing. Although, at some point, the implications of ‘detachment’, or the implications for ‘loneliness’, for the wider community are different. But it does, draw an interesting line of connection, between ‘Money Monster’ and the other movie of 40 years ago, that it’s director is still so proud to have been part of. All best, B.

  6.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: What the Flick Review dated 10th December 2015

    Watched the panel’s most entertaining review of a movie, that is related to the theme of ‘Money Monster’ again, just to see how the panel had dealt with ‘The Big Short’, which they discussed at the time that the Global Globe nominations were being announced. It’s amazing having had time to reflect upon this, The Big Short, and what it was trying to say – it was most enjoyable to see the panel – giving their first reactions about ‘The Big Short’.

    I did remark however, that I’ve noticed that the panel in it’s review, does have a blind spot, in being unable to notice what the theme of a movie actually is. I don’t know. It must be the part of the brain, in the movie reviewing profession, that gets removed in order that these fantastic people called movie critics, can do their jobs a lot better. They always seem to be blind about what the theme of a movie actually is. It’s remarkable, when one does pick up on this pattern.

    I greatly enjoyed the members of the panel, giving their reactions to this movie, and describing what they liked about it. In fairness, for a good broadcast movie review to work – and ‘What the Flick’ team, are able to do this better than anyone – that panel review on camera will work, without the critics having the faintest idea about what the ‘meat’ in the sandwich actually is. I understand this to be so, because perhaps professional movie critics cannot afford to let too much of the emotion, that is part of the art of cinema, they can’t afford to allow too much of that in. Otherwise, it would be difficult if not impossible to wade through a whole weeks worth of movie viewing, and then next week, do it all again.

    So I understand, there must be some protocol that is agreed between the movie critics themselves, that they omit certain parts of what the art form of making movies is all about. What it means though, in order to understand what the art form of cinema is, then one has to venture beyond, far beyond, what movie critics as a group have to offer in terms of observation, about cinema. Which is a strange realization.

    But to reduce it to it’s most simple format.

    ‘The Big Short’ movie, as it’s theme, is about a question. It’s a philosophical question really. It’s a question, that could be asked, and asked without having to talk about credit default swaps, or finance. ‘The Big Short’ asks the question – if human beings in this modern time, have lost much of what could be termed a moral center, or a ‘core’ to their spiritual being – do we as philosophers, or thinkers, assume that this is something specific to the time and conditions in which we are in, . . . or did this all happen, a long time ago?

    That is the question.

    The movie, ‘The Big Short’ does not show us what bankers are. The movie, ‘The Big Short’ shows us what people are, people who happen to be bankers. When we watch a movie such as ‘The Big Short’, we don’t get angry at bankers as professionals, but rather we get angry at what people are, really are. And it’s just the coincidence that bankers make this facet of humanity more visible to us, in the story, is what enables us as a viewing audience to confront this anger, about how we feel about our own species, our own kind.

    There is a deficit though, about movie reviewing as a job, and the level on which movie reviewers as a community, are able to tackle the art forms, which they aim to ‘review’. B.