“Money Monster” premiered Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival to an approving press audience, helping set the stage for a good opening in the United States this month (the movie opens Friday in Austin).
It’s directed by Jodie Foster, and it has echoes of “Network,” where news is melded with entertainment, and whereas “Network” seemed like a satire of the future, Clooney noted Thursday that the future is now the present, and that “Money Monster” can be seen as a commentary on that.
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The movie focuses on a crazy TV host of a financial show, Lee Gates, who dances and sashays as he kicks off his tips about where to invest your money. He has been very supportive of investing in Ibis Clear Capital, run by Walt Camby (Dominic West). But Ibis loses $800 million in one day, wiping out the savings of a working-class guy, Kyle (Jack O’Connell), who decides to seek revenge.
Posing as a delivery guy, he manages to infiltrate the TV show and storms on stage with a weapon, demanding answers about what really happened to Ibis stock. He takes Clooney’s Gates hostage, makes him put on an explosive vest, and is holding the trigger, threatening to blow up the show if he doesn’t get what he wants.
That’s a big problem, because Camby of Ibis is out of the country and can’t be contacted, or at least the company says. And it’s left to Gates’ TV producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to figure out how to prevent a tragedy as the world watches the events play out on live TV.
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At a press conference after the screening, it was noted that this is the 40-year anniversary of the screening of “Taxi Driver” in Cannes, the movie that Foster said really launched her career. Although the reception was mixed when it first played in Cannes, primarily because of the level of violence, it went on to win the festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or. And Foster said she had lots of love for Cannes, which she considers to be the festival for auteurs.
While Foster answered questions seriously, Clooney and Roberts, who are real-life close friends, joked around and seemed to be having a fabulous time. Clooney is a regular in Cannes, but Roberts said this was her first time at the festival and that she was thrilled to be here.
Throughout the session, various questioners tried to bring politics into the session, and it wasn’t such a stretch, since the presidential campaign has some elements of a reality TV show. Clooney acknowledged as much, and was pointedly asked about Donald Trump. That’s been a constant question, especially among foreign critics when they meet anyone from America. Clooney said he was confident that Trump would not be elected, because he didn’t think the country would respond favorably “to fear. That’s not who we are,” he said.
And then some critics wanted to know whether O’Connell’s character was a stand-in for Bernie Sanders voters. Foster handled that question, saying that she saw O’Connell’s character as being more representative of the economically disenfranchised and frustrated Trump voter.
Whatever the case, the movie is quite funny and shouldn’t be taken completely seriously. It has lots of funny lines, and lots of points of laughter, primarily because Clooney excels at playing characters think they’re smart but are actually the dumbest guy in the room. Clooney says he has practice doing such roles, mainly because of his long association with the Coen brothers.
The screening on Thursday capped a controversial first few days of Cannes, which has installed heightened security all around the Palais, with long lines for both press and general audiences. Many roads around the area have been completely blocked off, presumably to guard against car bombings, and the Croisette is completely jammed with people.
On Wednesday night, at the premiere of “Cafe Society,” even more controversy erupted when an emcee made a joke about director Woody Allen and rape. Allen reportedly addressed the controversy at a luncheon Thursday, saying that he never would try to censor any comedian from making a joke, even if it was at his own expense. He said he was more annoyed that the ceremony leading up to the screening lasted so long.