Money Monster

First Hit:  This film does not disappoint as it pointedly and powerfully touches on the themes of the day:  The struggle of the middle class, media’s (and social media) power to influence, the police’s response to a situation, and the rich manipulating the system for self-benefit.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is an over amplified version of Jim Cramer’s afternoon program called “Mad Money” on CNBC.

In Gates’ daily program called “Money Monster” he uses sometimes crude, always flamboyant, and other over the top ways to share what he thinks is going on in the stock market. He’s got a huge following. His director is Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts).

The live show’s success is the combination of his unpredictability, verbal acuity, smarts, and unbridled flair as directed and in concert with her ability to know where he’s going with any particular point allowing the screen graphics to match Gate’s thoughts thereby maximizing the impact for the viewers.

Does Gates go overboard? Yes, and based on statements he made on an earlier show’s prediction for IBIS (an automated trading company), Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) loses all his money. In fact, just about everyone who invested in IBIS loses their money.

Kyle is beyond angry, he wants answers and makes his way onto the set of Gates’ live show with a gun and a vest bomb which he forces Gates to wear.

This film is about: How Kyle comes to this breaking point. How Gates responds to this life threatening intrusion. How some people manipulate money for their own greedy purpose. How the public responds to this live, on air, real-time drama. How the police respond to Budwell’s dilemma. And about Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend Molly (Emily Meade); how does she respond to this event?

I won’t tell you how the film deals with all these questions except to comment on one: How the police respond. Waking up this morning after seeing the film last night, I’m still saddened by the reflective shoot first mentality of the police. We are bombarded these days with the police shooting people as a solution to many situations. There seems to be little room in their mantra to learn more about the situation and the people involved before shooting them.

In this film, from the get go, they (particularly one cop) had one focus which was to kill (“take him out”) Kyle. It isn’t that I didn’t understand their position, guy with gun sometimes aiming it at law enforcement officers, but their actions were heavy handed and reflected the large number of police shootings that cross our headlines every day.

Clooney is perfect as the narcissistic TV personality that masks a lonely life. His portrayal of Gates is wonderful because his caring true self wins in the end. Roberts was beyond fantastic. I thought she caught all the nuances of a TV director and someone who was willing to risk her life to do the right thing for all. O’Connell was amazingly strong as the semi-unhinged guy who just wanted to not be ripped off any longer. His life as a $14.00 an hour guy, who had just lost his mother, his strong willed girlfriend being pregnant, and his concern for how his baby would survive in this world was palpable in all his actions. His moments of confusion, reflection, humiliation, and clear path to wanting to get answers were spot on. Caitriona Balfe as Diane Lester the girlfriend of IBIS CEO and Chief Publicity Officer for IBIS was very good as her subtle shift of consciousness from stonewalling the public to leading the charge and find out what happened was well portrayed. Dominic West as IBIS CEO Walt Camby was well done. His manipulative version of, I’m lying through my teeth about our company being transparent, ran true. Meade as the fed-up girlfriend was powerful as her character pulled no punches. Lastly, Lenny Venito as Lenny the cameraman was perfect. Jamie Linden and Alan DiFiore wrote a wonderfully taut and biting screenplay that covered a lot of bases. Jodie Foster did an excellent job of directing this film. There were some outstanding moments and cuts that were really strong and moved this film along at the perfect clip while covering a lot of ground.

Overall:  This real-time film was perfectly acted, had a strong script and was elegantly directed by Jodie Foster - kudos.