In a prediction which may seem upsetting to some in India, Hollywood star George Clooney -- whose work, Jodie Foster-helmed Money Monster played at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday -- told a crowded press conference soon after the screening that Donald Trump would not win the US presidential election.
“There’s not going to be a President Donald Trump,” he said in a voice that appeared so confident. He was answering a question about the possible scenario following a Trump win. “Fear is not going to drive our country. We’re not afraid of Muslims or immigrants or women. We’re not going to be afraid of anything.”
Money Monster is a gripping hostage drama, satirically set in the America that was reeling under the financial meltdown. The movie also stars Pretty Woman Julia Roberts and Skins star Jack O’Connell, and narrates the story of a financial ‘pundit’ Lee Gates (Clooney), who along with his TV show director (Roberts), is held hostage by a man (O’Connell), who was devastated after losing his entire savings that he invested on a tip given by Gates.
At the extremely lively press conference, Clooney also lambasted cable news networks for letting their content slip into “infotainment” -- a move which he felt helped Trump to reach where he was today.
“There’s a great disaster in the way we inform ourselves now,” Clooney remarked. “Trump is actually a result in many ways of many of the news programmes that didn’t follow up and ask tough questions. Their ratings go up because they can just show an empty podium and a caption saying ‘Donald Trump is about to speak’.”
Clooney -- credited with a superb film that he himself directed and acted in, Good Night, and Good Luck (about Edward R Murrow’s analytical takedown of McCarthyism) -- said television broadcasters had forgotten that “news was never designed to be immensely profitable, but was meant to inform”.
“Money Monster talks about the evolution of what has become the cross between news and entertainment. It’s become a big problem,” quipped Clooney. “News stopped being a loss leader - you were never going to make money on news, you were actually going to just inform people. There was other programming that would make money.”
Jodie Foster, who was also at the press conference, had come to Cannes five years ago with The Beaver, a romantic tale starring Mel Gibson -- a man who learns to express himself with the help of a beaver hand puppet after he has had a breakdown. Foster first appeared at Cannes as a 12-year-old to promote Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver -- which won the Palm d’Or.
In Money Monster, Julia Roberts essays an edgy TV producer who has to keep controlling her star, Gates -- a man in a show called Money Monster who gives stock picks and pep talk, even dances a bit , but often goes off the script.
During one such show Gates pushes a company whose shares plummet causing a loss of $800 million to investors. One of them is a truck driver, Kyle Budwell (O’Connell) -- who slips into the studio and takes Gates hostage at gun point. Budwell even forces Gates to wear a suicide bomber vest. Budwell wants Gates to apologise for messing up the lives of ordinary people, and the nerve-wracking drama unfolds live on television that is watched by millions all over the world.
Although, Money Monster is a typical Hollywood work that is wonderfully produced, the film has not been neatly tied up. There are questions that remain unanswered. For instance, how does Budwell sneak into the studio with a gun and a bomb?
However, Clooney carries off his role with a kind of conviction that some other actor might not have been able to do so well. And it is always a pleasure to watch Clooney.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Cannes Film Festival.)