' Cinema Romantico: Faux Review of Money Monster

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Faux Review of Money Monster

During my junior year of high school, my English teacher forced us to keep daily diaries. The friend sitting next to me in class took this as the cue not to pen confessionals but as an opportunity to explore the virtues of criticism. This to say, he would take whatever book we might be reading for class, randomly open it to a page, select a sentence, any sentence, and then construct a review of the book itself solely on the basis of that single sentence. I thought of this the other day when I clicked on A.O. Scott’s review of Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster” for The New York Times. Because there to greet me was a still from the film, this still……


I had no plans to see “Money Monster”, as I kinda, sorta documented, because I kinda, sorta feel like putting Julia Roberts and George Clooney in a movie together and then not having them be in the same room most of the time is like having a bottle of Vodka and a bottle of Kahlua on your liquor shelf and keeping them apart and away from the cream. And after seeing this still…I really didn’t want to see it. I wanted to imagine this still is the movie. I wanted to write a review based entirely on this still. So I did.

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As Lee Gates, a financial guru who hosts his own Wall Street business news cable show, and has been plagued by guilt ever since 2008 for steering so many loyal viewers directly into the effects of the financial crisis, George Clooney is surprisingly short of gravitas and all in on gaiety. Indeed, while the set-up for “Money Monster” seems ripe for an ode to 1970’s stalwart “Network”, with Gates as a kind of CNBC-ish Howard Beale, descending into revealing mania as he shouts at his audience, the “The Big Short” as brutish parable, director Jodie Foster forges an oddly opposite path. It forgoes solemn sermonizing for something saccharine instead, as if Squawk Box was hosted at a 1950’s soda fountain. Foster turns the title “Money Monster” into something of a joke as Lee Gates and his loyal assistant Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who might just like him, and who might just like her, are faced with budget cuts and then layoffs and then the rumor that, yes, their beloved television show is going to have its plug pulled. What to do? Well, to save one show, Lee and Patty decide to put on another show!

In other words, “Money Monster” re-imagines George Clooney & Julia Roberts as Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland. Of course, when the latter put on a show, circumstances intrinsically never felt all that dire, no matter the specific problem they were trying to solve, deliberately and blissfully remaining ignorant to any genuine societal context. And as Lee and Patty assemble a ragtag band of minor business cable news personalities to star in their telethon to save Money Monster, they are merely expending so much effort to continue a broadcast that will continue to feed viewers information that will continue contributing to another escalating crisis that will no doubt eventually implode, the film remains deliberately, blissfully, strangely ignorant to this societal context, an inadvertent capitalist revue. Songs like Anything Can Happen at the Bank of New York and Chin Up! Portfolio! Carry On! strive for sincerity rather than mocking irony, and the concluding shots of loyal viewers at home pulling money out of their mutual funds to ensure Lee and Patty hit their fundraising goal are treated with blatant heroism, the orchestra swelling, Lee and Patty hugging, crying and, finally, yes, kissing, beneath the sight of Monopoly money falling from the ceiling like confetti.

It came across like such a sick joke I could only stare and wonder, is this real?

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