Really? This was necessary? Why? What’s the point? OK, I suppose revisiting Wall Street all these years later is timely, given the banking crisis and resultant global meltdown.
Really? This was necessary? Why? What’s the point? OK, I suppose revisiting Wall Street all these years later is timely, given the banking crisis and resultant global meltdown. I’ll allow you that, albeit grudgingly. But this is celebratory in tone, rather than outraged. You will want to shake it and shout, ‘Goddamn it, get angry!’ It sheds no new light on anything. It says zilch. There is no point.
It simply recycles the same morality fable, and the same characters, right down to the wide-eyed rookie who worships Gordon Gekko, is wooed by the promise of wealth and power, and is then shafted for his trouble. In 1987, it was Charlie Sheen. This time, it’s Shia LeBeouf, who, even in the snappy suits, seems no older than 13. He looks as imposing as a bar mitzvah boy. Why is he a movie star? Why? Why? Michael Douglas, in reprising Gekko, does appear to be having fun, but why should I care if Michael Douglas is having fun or not? He’s nothing to me; nothing. And that’s Catherine’s look-out; anyhow, I guess if Oliver Stone isn’t going to get angry, I’m going to have to do it on his behalf. Great. Like I don’t have enough to do already.
This Wall Street is subtitled Money Never Sleeps, which, at least, is true enough. Mine’s gone before I get up and is rarely home before I go to bed. ‘I just don’t know where it goes,’ I’m always saying. So I’ll also give you that, but that’s it. No more concessions. Enough is enough, as bankers never say, but we are more sensible than that, right?
So, where are we, 23 years later? Well, Gekko has been in prison for insider trading, but is now out. He’s written a bestselling memoir and is also a hit on the talk circuit. ‘I once told people greed is good...now it’s legal!’ he tells people who pay to listen which, amazingly, they do. LeBeouf is Jake, a Wall Street trader with an interest in renewable energy, but not a significant interest, judging by his powerful motorbike and helicopter trips. I don’t know if he turns lights off, but wouldn’t bet on it. Jake loves his bank and he loves his boss (Frank Langella) but his bank and his boss are destroyed by the evil Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who heads a rival bank. Jake wants revenge and appeals to Gekko, but it’s complicated.
The complication is Jake’s fiancée. She is Gekko’s estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Winnie writes a lefty-liberal blog and despises her father for always putting money before people, yet she dates a Wall Street trader who may not turn lights off? Go figure. Ms Mulligan simpers and wells-up, wells-up and simpers. She is very boring and also has the world’s most annoying pixie haircut. (Once you get angry, it’s amazing how many things you can get angry about.) Still, the couple, as bland as they are, do have a super loft apartment with modern art and a big bowl of shiny apples...see? See how easy it is to get sucked in?
Can we be bothered to go into all the financial ins and outs, you and I? We cannot. We are busy people. Needless to say, there is a lot of talk about ‘sub-prime mortgages’ and ‘leverage’ and ‘credit-default swaps’ but these never feel as if they are the film’s substance, and you will learn little, even though all exposition is accompanied by handy, on-screen graphs. Stone takes literalisation to new extremes. Should a character mention seawater, we are shown a clip of seawater doing what seawater does, which is be the sea. But at no point does it address the questions we’d most like addressed: who are these people for whom $100 million isn’t enough, and then £200 million, £300 million, £500 million, and so on? How do their minds work? What are their self-justifications? How do they sleep nights, knowing they’ve eviscerated whole industries and economies? It feels as if Stone has copped out. It feels as if he is too in love with all he affects to despise.
I’d skip this film, if I were you, although there are a few nice cameos: Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, as himself; Susan Sarandon as Jake’s mom; and Charlie Sheen even turns up momentarily as Bud Fox. Bud did all right with Blue Star. He turned it around into a thriving concern. But this film misses its own story. It’s a middle-brow male weepy, and no more. Money never sleeps, but you might. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy a little doze myself.