Cannes 2016: Money Monster

I covered Cannes Film Festival this year and I will be posting my reviews on here daily. My pieces are on a website known as The Upcoming, and have been published in something called Swipe magazine. 

Money Monster is a spritely, pacy directorial return from Jodie Foster, and another film that turns a critical eye toward frenzied stock markets, big business and the continuing fallout of the global financial crisis. The themes tackled are prominent and well worn: justice, wealth and a rigged financial system. However it struggles to say anything particularly original or enlightening about a capitalist system with its intellectual foundations rooted in structural inequality and false meritocracy, which leaves a competent but generally uninteresting picture to zip along  until its predictably fatal denouement.

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, the obnoxious, amoral TV host of the titular Money Monster, a programme that offers viewers dubious tips on where to invest their money. It is a garish Fox News-style nightmare that is very much in touch with the social media age: quick cuts to short viral clips, irritating sound effects, ludicrous back-up dancing and the sight of Gates in a variety of shameless attire (warning: boxing gloves and top hats included). His put-upon producer Patty (a nice, understated performance from Julia Roberts) attempts to keep Gates in check, but it seems she may have finally had enough of his bullshit, blowhard shtick. The day is disrupted when working class truck driver Kyle (Jack O’Connell) breaks onto the set, aims a gun at Gates’s head and forces him into a bomb vest. Kyle lost his savings on the back of a Gates tip that demanded investment in a shady company run by a shadier CEO (Dominic West, on suitably crooked form). A frantic inquisition into guilt and responsibility ensues as the cameras stay on, the animosity and tension fluctuating like a stock market forecast while pleas of transparency remain ironically unheard.

O’Connell makes a decent fist of presenting a financially naive, semi-articulate young man pushed to the point of implosion. And Clooney ambles through, displaying the full range of smugness to desperation as the increasingly dramatic events unfold. Money Monster suffers from the usual problem of films associated with money markets: the necessity to provide dull expository dialogue that explains obscure financial jargon. But the larger problem is with it’s incurious politics, which simply reproduces the sterile debate regarding unfettered, vulture capitalism and the exploited, deserving poor. This is a well-made film, but there is greater interest to be found in joining a hedge fund.


Published by

Joseph Owen

PhD, Carl Schmitt, Modernism and Sovereignty at University of Southampton

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