by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
Jodie Foster directs George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a potent indictment of our economic system that has decimated the middle class, increased the number of poor and made a handful obscenely rich.
‘Money Monster’ is a mash up of real life in-studio hostage taking and movies whose protagonist represents a disenfranchised group in our society. ‘John Q’ immediately comes to mind. Denzel Washington in that 2002 film played a frustrated, over-wrought dad fighting an insensitive health care system to save his son.
In ‘Money Monster’ we see Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) representing everyone who has lost jobs, homes, or life savings to corporate greed. He points out that no one playing with “our” money gets punished. He takes hostage TV host Lee Gates (Clooney) who is clearly inspired by Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’ program.
What unfolds is a clear and well thought out damning of capitalism without a conscience. And if you haven’t gotten that by the end a clip of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is there to tell us, “the stock market is a casino.”
Patty Fenn (Roberts) is Gates’ show director. She’s always talking in his ear trying to get the normally egotistical, maniacal TV celebrity to get humble for a change. But the movie is also an indictment of TV news. “We don’t do journalism here,” Patty says, lamenting to a friend the state of TV journalism overall.
Police are also lumped in with the powers of oppression as they appear to be doing Wall Street’s bidding. Ask retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard and his wife Brook about that. They experienced the police first hand during the September, 2012 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in Manhattan.
As we see the Gates and Fenn characters grow to sympathize with Budwell several gospel scenes flash through one’s mind. The obvious one is the cleansing of the Temple. Jesus is furious that a few people are making money off a system that clearly disenfranchises the poor keeping them from offering sacrifices. And there are numerous stories of Jesus siding with those who his society would like not to see.
Justice is a theme of Jesus’ ministry. ‘Money Monster’ is pointing out we still have much work to do to create a just economic system that serves everyone.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels