Fifteen million American dollars’ worth of people swear to god they saw Money Monster last weekend. If we take those people at their word, this means that Money Monster did … fine. It wasn’t a hit. It wasn’t a flop. It was just … fine. If it does well overseas (overseas people love incompetent thrillers about how middle-aged men don’t text back promptly, right), it might even turn a profit.
But Money Monster’s box office figures and reviews both only bury the lede: It’s 2016, and George Clooney doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a bummer, I know. But look into your heart — it’s true. And we need to get him back on track.
Here are three steps, to start:
1. Be quiet.
There is a misperception out there that George Clooney is talky.
It’s hard to say when this got started. Part of it may be simply that, in the post-Tarantino ’00s, everyone seemed talky. The Ocean’s trilogy is remembered as talky, but does much more with its silences. There is some talky-ness in Clooney’s Coen brothers work — though thankfully not when it counts. The Clooney-as-talky myth probably peaked when he replaced Robert Downey Jr. in Gravity: If your backup answer to “Downey” is “Clooney,” you may have accidentally changed the question.
But the truth is, George Clooney is just not that guy. He is sturdy and charming and can deliver the odd perfect punchline, but his default charisma has always been something quieter. The best example of this might be 2010’s The American, in which Clooney plays a loner assassin hiding out in the Italian country (same). It’s his last great performance — and was a modest hit besides.
Fuck a “Worst Batman has me cornered at this party and I want to leave” Gravity flow. George Clooney should learn to be quiet again; he never wasn’t.
2. Kiss it better.
Will someone please, for the love of god, kiss George Clooney? This seems impossible but I think it’s true: My dude hasn’t had a good, old-fashioned Movie Kiss since 2009. 2009! And even that kiss, in Up in the Air — shouts to the Vera Farmiga Business Suit Collection: Keeping It Professional Without Sacrificing Comfort or Chic™ — doesn’t quite articulate what we’re looking for: something romantic.
The further one travels down Clooney’s credits, though, the more he loosens his lips. Intolerable Cruelty? Underrated. Out of Sight? High masterpiece. Want to know what super-holds up? One Fine Goddamn Day. And for the last time: ER WAS NOT A MEDICAL DRAMA, ER WAS A BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE WITH ALSO SOME DOCTOR STUFF. The point is, this is the mode that made Clooney Clooney. He should offer a dance to the genre that brought him: Haircut permitting, he should make a kissing movie.
3. No more directing.
The most damning thing I can think of to say about Money Monster isn’t that it’s bad. It’s that I’m surprised George Clooney didn’t direct it.
George Clooney directs movies like Michael Jordan played baseball. On one hand, yeah, it’s impressive: rolling out of bed to hit .202, even in Double-A, is really no joke. But on the other hand, [taps mic] [clears throat] DOG, YOU ARE MICHAEL JORDAN, STOP PUBLISHING VANITY POETRY. With Clooney it’s no different. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; Good Night, and Good Luck; Leatherheads; The Ides of March; The Monuments Men — I’ll let you choose your favorite and we’ll call it an even .200. There are a lot of .200-level directors out there. There are not a lot of Clooney-level stars.
In the end, of course, who knows what Clooney thinks. Maybe he’s truly happy, and he’ll keep on, just like this. Maybe he’ll get an itch and fax the league some Ocean’s news tomorrow. Or maybe he means what he’s said, and he’ll quit acting altogether. But if he does ever quit … I doubt he will do it for long. Even Jordan learned eventually: trying new things gets boring. Especially when you’ve mattered before. And definitely when you can dunk.
This piece originally appeared on the Ringer Facebook page on May 17, 2016.