US actor/director Jodie Foster hit the Cannes Croisette today with the world premiere of topical thriller Money Monster, a Dog Day Afternoon-Network hybrid about the toxic consequences of a 24-hour news cycle that devalues news reportage in favour of hyperbolic infotainment.
The savvy genre pic puts a human face on what happens when a dearth of financial analysis enables corporate malfeasance to thrive: Jack O’Connell wears the petrified and vengeful expression of an everyman whose life savings are wiped in a nanosecond, and George Clooney is the sleazy scapegoat in O’Connell’s sights, who gets a bomb strapped to his chest on live TV for his sins of trumpeting unsound financial advice as gospel.
At the post-film press conference, Foster, Clooney, O’Connell and Julia Roberts fronted the media and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn political. Money Monster is about to be released into the climate of an unpredictable US election campaign, and US film writer Chaz Ebert of RogerEbert.com and Chicago Sun Times asked if the film might serve as “a cautionary tale” of what might transpire “under ‘President Donald Trump’ ”.
Clooney deconstructed the question off the bat: "There’s not gonna be a president Donald Trump," he said. "Fear is not going to be something that drives our country. We're not going to be scared of Muslims or immigrants or women."
A key scene in the film sees Clooney’s character come a cropper when a bold prediction made some months prior on camera is replayed, and he is humiliated by hindsight. No doubt those aligned with his political views hope not to revisit today’s comments with similar regret come November.
He went on to draw a line between the film’s subject and the giddy reporting of the presumptive Republican nominee’s unprecedented success thus far.
"Trump is actually a result in many ways of the fact that much of the news programs didn’t follow up and ask enough questions," he said. "Ratings go up because they can show an empty podium saying ‘Donald Trump is about to speak,’ as opposed to taking those 30 seconds and saying, 'Let’s talk about refugees,' the biggest crisis in the world right now."
At the other end of the political spectrum, Foster watered down speculation that the film was a paean to Democrat hopeful Bernie Sanders, whose impassioned followers resemble the enthusiastic masses depicted in the film.
It’s not about this particular political cycle, nor is it specific to the United States, she said. "It's about our complicity and our responsibility for creating a system that isn’t fair."
Money Monster opens in Australia on June 2.
Watch the press conference highlights below: