Jodie Foster's first film since she more-or-less segue from acting to directing was a psychological/finance thriller that failed to really ignite the engine and go beyond cruise control. Banking on the star power of George Clooney and Julia Roberts, this played out like an anaemic episode of HBO's Newsroom meets Showtime's Billions with a splash of Blindspot/Quantico (or really any other TV series that involves the cops, bombs and guns) although perhaps the powers-to-be were aiming more for The Big Short meets Spotlight.
The screenplay by Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf and Jamie Linden were a pale comparison to what Aaron Sorkin, Brian Koppelman and David Levian churn out from those above-mentioned series. The characters were all daftly one-dimensional as were the rumination on the wall street conspiracies and financial turmoil.
With two great movie stars like Clooney and Roberts who have undeniable chemistry together, it was an absolute error on Foster's part to put them apart for almost the entire film. Yes, their voices can convey some sort of intimacy but what they really have is a magnetic physical chemistry - the screen lights up when they are both in the same frame.
Foster has directed episodes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black and she is a competent director. Her last directorial film - The Beaver - was an underrated gem (partly also because of the whole Mel Gibson saga). She excels in the smaller and more intimate stories. When it comes to these big summer blockbusters/popcorn movies she is significantly lost. The film lacked urgency and tension. Scenes dragged on too long and momentums get wasted. However, where she succeeded, and was actually the best part of the film, was the unspoken subtext about American's, or ours, obsession with reality and tragedy, how we trivialise everything and anything for our own amusement and our blasé attitude towards what is really wrong with the world: if it doesn't affect me, I don't have to care for it.
Neither Clooney or Roberts turned in their best work. Clooney, as an actor, has always been sort of an enigma to me. There is no doubt that he is utterly charmless, but many a times, the characters he plays always seemed one-note and bland. He has never really went under the skin of a character to really convey any sort of realistic emotions. Even here, he plays a role but he is still George Clooney.
Roberts barely has much to do here other than shout orders or be the Clooney-whisperer. She did not even get to look good - make-up cost saved right there.
The stand out actor was actually Jack O'Connell. He has potential - although still rather unpolished (working with Angelina Jolie in Unbroken must not have helped much) - and his career should be watched closely. Hopefully his British sensibility will steer him more towards his talented countrymen like Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne and away from the starry, glitzy, popcorn millions.
Money Monster was a decent film but with cable TV offering so much better alternatives, Clooney, Roberts and Foster are the only draw.