Personally, my knowledge of the Federal Reserve goes about as deep as a mall fountain collecting pennies and dimes. Naturally, Jim Bruce’s documentary Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve should be the perfect vehicle to educate people like me who need a bit more information about its history and the possibly bleak future it has ahead of it.
Jim Bruce seems like the right filmmaker for the job seeing that he’s previously worked on The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a fantastic documentary that includes everyone in the audience. Money for Nothing marks his directorial debut.
As much as Bruce has tried to make the content in Money for Nothing accessible through visual examples and interviews with financial intellectuals, he loses his audience too many times. During the first third, the filmmaker slows down his doc so everyone can catch up. However, he forgets who he’s pitching his film towards and gradually moves faster – leaving confused movie goers in the dust once again.
At one point, Bruce gets so far ahead of himself, that it’s almost as if he ignores the fact that his audience’s interest is dwindling. He shrugs his shoulders and takes off full speed ahead. Meanwhile, I’m trying to follow as best as possible, but sense a disconnect between myself and the content.
On that level, the doc fails. The main purpose of a documentary is to educate and inform. When the documentarian doesn’t show signs of compassion and gives up hope on rustier movie goers, the project becomes one-sided as it talks directly to those who have a clearer understanding of the topics at hand.
Even though I realized this doc may not be for me entering into Bruce’s film, I was an open book when I started watching. I’ve gone into documentaries before knowing very little about the topic at hand, and have finished those films feeling enlightened. With Money for Nothing, I feel embarrassed to admit I was led astray many times. Instead of filling my mind with new thoughts and opinions, it just reminded me about how little I know about this financial world, which in turn makes me feel glum and dumb. I can imagine other movie goers who are like me will feel the same.
What Jim Bruce’s doc has going for it though is its clean-cut presentation. Interviews have been shot competently, animated segments and the usage of different clips to generate comparisons or allegories are much appreciated and add a fresh change of pace, and Liev Schreiber’s narration is fitting and doesn’t draw attention to the celebrity.
At the end of the day, what matters most is the information to which the doc is built on. Bruce may have it locked down, but he unwieldy delivers it to his spectators.
For those viewers who are bonkers for dollar bills, you may find yourself enjoying what Money for Nothing has to offer – though most of this may be old news to you. Everyone else, however, may be finding themselves drawing nothing from the money they spent on admission.