When one is subjected to an abundance of money related issues, especially in the first weeks of a University term where most seem to be excreting money from every pore, I find that the best way to deal with it is to take some time out and watch a movie. I surfed the Odeon website to find out what was showing and suitably enough arrived at the choice of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the aptly named sequel to Oliver Stone’s classic from 1987. The original is a must see for anyone, yet the same cannot be said for its successor, again directed by Stone, which at times is a sharp installment but may not be a worthy investment.
Set in 2008 it tells the story of Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf) a Wall Street stockbroker caught up in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and his love for Winnie (Carey Mulligan) who happens to be the daughter of one of the richest fictional characters in cinematic history, the dangerously brilliant Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). With a supporting cast that includes Josh Brolin and Susan Sarandon, (two actors who I have greatly admired in recent years) I was optimistic entering the screening, yet came out feeling somewhat dissatisfied. One must never be fooled by a cool trailer from youtube again.
I was surprised when I first heard that LaBeouf had been cast in this sequel since my adulation for the first movie, starring Douglas and Charlie Sheen (who reprises his role as Bud Fox), could not picture a better on-screen partnership. At times LaBeouf’s character does not have the vigour that Sheen portrayed, yet his performance shows his growing maturity as an actor, as I still picture him as the lovable Louis in the humorous T.V. show, Even Stevens. Douglas slips back comfortably into his role and produces uncounted layers as he fakes, deals and fuels fire, overshadowing the lack lustre and non-menacing character of Bretton James, portrayed by Josh Brolin, who should know better, and could have easily lifted the film.
I can see why this movie has received mixed reviews. Scenes featuring LaBeouf and Mulligan’s characters felt, at times, unneeded and I must point out that their relationship lead me to wonder why Winnie, who despises Gekko, would be involved with a man who does the exact same thing as him, which she condemns. A cunning financial movie is what I wanted, and a love story is what I got. I am all for a great romantic masterpiece, but I must be enlightened not dragged.
Furthermore, Oliver Stone’s heavy reliance on multiple screens, graphics and digital tricks makes it feel like one is watching CNN with all its computer-screen busyness. Although not wanting to dump the stock altogether, I believe it to be an uncommon sequel that seems to be both relevant and necessary and proves that “greed can still be good”.
The film is sophisticated and displays pleasing aesthetics, but like the renowned movie critic Roger Ebert stated recently, I wanted to be “outraged.” This is not a classic movie like its cinematic CEO, but it is an effective commentary on what greed costs everyone, and no doubt a profusion of financial meltdown movies will hit our screens in the near future.