Sunday 11 December 2016

Film review: Money Monster misses the mark too often

Cert 15A; Now Showing

Aine O'Connor

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

Jodie Foster is a pretty good director, so her return to behind-the-scenes film work after five years raises expectations. Add to that the stars of her project - George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell (who was so good in '71) and Dominic West - with a plot about the evils of big business, and you'd imagine you're on to a sure-fire winner. But dream teams don't always make dream projects, and while Money Monster is entirely watchable and very often enjoyable, it misses its mark on too many occasions.

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Lee Gates (Clooney) is an obnoxious TV host whose show highlights stock opportunities. He has a sort of jocular wife/mammy relationship with his director Patty (Roberts) and they are mid-show when Kyle Budwell (O'Connell), a Joe Soap who lost all his money on stock recommended by Gates, takes him hostage live on air. At first it seems that Walt Camby's (West) company lost money because of a technical glitch, but Walt leaves most of the explaining to his press woman Diane (Catriona Balfe) - who soon begins to suspect dodgy dealings.

The direction is good and the stars all very engaging - George is George, dammit - and there are some light-hearted moments, but therein is part of the problem. Should there be funny moments in a hostage drama about the little guy being shafted by the inherent corruption of the economic system?

Where the far superior The Big Short outlined an inherently corrupt system, this paints a picture of one 'bad egg' company. Lee isn't that bad after all, and for all the guns and semtex, there is no sense of threat. The plot is far-fetched, but the real problem is the lack of a mission statement. The film doesn't say anything - so it lacks depth. 2 Stars

Love & Friendship

Cert G; Now Showing

The last time Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny were together on screen, it was because auteur Whit Stillman had cast them in his semi-autobiographical film The Last Days of Disco, set in the early '80s in New York. The three are reunited again now in Stillman's version of a very early and unfinished Jane Austen novella named Lady Susan. It takes place at the end of the 18th century, so 20 years on from being costumed in leg warmers, Beckinsale and Sevigny find themselves in corsets.

Lady Susan (Beckinsale) is a widow of a certain age who finds herself having to leave one set of hosts when rumours about her dalliances with the husband get out of hand. She takes refuge in her brother-in-law, Charles's (Justin Edwards) quiet, stately home. With no money of her own and a lifestyle she is keen to uphold, Lady Susan is seeking both a husband for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and herself.

Among the candidates are the extraordinarily dim, but very wealthy, Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) and the dashing, but moderately dim, Reginald de Courcy (Xavier Samuel) - whose sister and parents (Emma Greenwell, Jemma Redgrave and James Fleet) are horrified at the prospect of Lady Susan, but delighted by her daughter. Sevigny plays the American friend in whom she confides.

Utterly charming and thoroughly ruthless, Lady Susan is a fantastic character - and Beckinsale nails it. The whole cast are excellent and the script bang on. It is often laugh-out-loud funny, it's beautiful to watch (it was shot around Dublin) and has far broader appeal than standard period drama. 5 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Cert PG; Now Showing

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is all grown-up and now the captain of her father's ship. When she arrives back in England she has made great discoveries and had great adventures, but things have been difficult for her mother (Lindsay Duncan), who has had to make certain compromises.

One of those involves their landlord and shipping company boss, whose marriage proposal Alice had previously turned down. But that doesn't matter enormously, because the real adventures take place through the looking glass - whence Alice is summoned by the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman).

There she finds that the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the other assorted characters are very concerned about the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, right), who has turned into a dark curmudgeon, adamant that his family are still alive, and raging that he cannot find them and that no one will believe him. It falls to Alice to access Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and travel through it to investigate.

Alice's first trip courtesy of Tim Burton had his trademark visuals and this, although directed by James Bobbin (Burton is listed as a producer), maintains that very distinctive look. The Oscar-winning costume design and make-up are fantastic again, and the CGI is amazing - not just for the action, but for the faces, too. Especially so for Depp - you just can't wear that much make-up at 50-odd and not look 90-odd.

It looks fabulous and it's busy, bombastic and sometimes funny. All of which mostly serve to cover up a thin plot. It's long too, but should make a good family outing. 3 Stars

Aine O'Connor

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