Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps *1/2

Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan
Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, John Buffalo Mailer, Susan Sarandon

Regardless of how many times you may have seen Splendor in the Grass, the moment when Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty) learns about the Great Depression never fails to turn your heart upside down.
Such a moment was supposed to occur in the fractured Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, as it deals with recent economic disasters that have affected the world in unexpected ways. We expect it to come when we see Gordon Gekko (Douglas) being released from prison in late 2001 and we expect it to occur again when the movie jumps forward in time to the chaotic 2008.
However nothing really happens and we are left wondering exactly what was the point in making this film.
On the surface it's basically a remake of Wall Street. Gordon Gekko's time in jail nothing but a MacGuffin so that he can regain the prominence he had during his 80's peak.
He writes a book called Is Greed Good? and the masses flock to him like a messiah. Among the crowds is idealistic Jacob Moore (LaBeouf) a wide-eyed proprietary trader who admires Gekko and wishes to be like him. Essentially LaBeouf is playing Charlie Sheen.
Of course, this being the aughts and all, besides being one greedy little bastard he also has a thing for the environment and for his girlfriend Winnie (Mulligan), Gekko's estranged daughter who has gone all Elektra on him by becoming a leftist, money-hating, journalist.
To say that nothing much happens in this sequel would be an understatement given how most of the film consists of scenes where the young Jake and the old sharks (which besides Douglas include Brolin, Langella and a scene stealing Eli Wallach) discuss vengeance, power and money like characters straight out of Clash of the Titans.
Other than the awkwardness of the plot, we often wonder what drew Oliver Stone back to this themes. Throughout the movie his direction seems to be trying to find itself.
Part of him is so in love with Wall Street that he seems to think he invented the 80's. Winnie tells Jake "you're so Wall Street it makes me sick" referring to both the actual stock market and the movie which isn't as iconic as Stone wants to think.
Another part of him seems to feel proud about having predicted back in 1987 that the world's economy would just continue collapsing until we all approached doomsday; however, this part of him also feels guilty and like Jake tries to atone through innumerable mentions of what alternative energy can do for the planet.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps doesn't know whether to condemn or to glorify and its overlong running time makes us sit through what ultimately is an unnecessary debate.
The one thing that rarely fails is Douglas. Even if Stone tries hard to humanize him (Gekko says "I'm human" more than once) the actor tries his best to remind us that first and foremost Gordon Gekko was so effective because he wasn't human.
Precisely because of his larger-than-life greed it was that he became who he was and not for one minute should we expect him to be turned into a politically correct version of materialism.
This is best embodied in a pathetic end during which Stone once again puts Gekko in the wrong kind of spotlight and we're left wondering if he's making some sort of comment about how easily human beings give "bailouts" to those who have wronged us (which would've turned the film into a twisted, great satire) or if he's just turning Gordon into the Grinch.
It's safe to say that the idea of Gekko getting the last laugh is something 80's Stone would've made, what we end up with right now is a reminder that he doesn't make them like he used to.


Michael Parsons said...

I so do not want to see this. However I am coming around to Mulligan as an actress, I just do not want to pay money to watch Shia.

CS said...

I was actually looking forward to this one, but might need to wait for it to hit video. It does not sound like the film tackles any ideas that were not already covered in the original.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

It's weird, other than Douglas I was interested in seeing this for the cast and according to you he comes out on top. Was Susan Sarandon's role just a cameo?

Jose said...

Michael: meh Shia's OK hehehe.

CS: yup, completely unnecessary.

Andrew: not really, she's in several scenes but man her performance is so bad. She's playing Shia's mom as this Edie Falco type and fails horribly at it. Her accent made me cringe.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Oh Lord. Yikes. I'm going to dial the nepotism on my part all the way up so that I just ignore the performance and remember how much I like her (like in Enchanted. HEH.)