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Wallstreet: Money Never Sleeps – But I Sure Did

By Megan Lane · September 27, 2010

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My money is in the bank.  I have a checking account and a savings account.  And, like most of America, that is where my knowledge of Wall Street ends.   When I decided to go see Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps, I didn’t think I’d need any more than that.  Boy was I wrong.  I can honestly tell you that about 75% of the movie was completely incomprehensible.

The plot (at least what I gathered) is this:  When his company and mentor (Frank Langella) are taken down by Bretton James (Josh Brolin), Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) partners with recently released Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) to seek revenge against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis.  To complicate things, Jake is engaged to Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) who wants nothing to do with the man she believed caused the death of her brother.

Now this plot sounds like your typical family drama.  Unfortunately, director Oliver Stone kind of dropped the narrative ball.  With the exception of Gordon Gekko, the characters fell quite flat proving once again that Shia LaBeouf cannot carry a movie.  The youngest Gekko was the worst of them.  Winnie is whiney and takes self-pity to an entirely new level.  She constantly complains about her father, telling Jake that he cannot trust him, that he’s going to hurt them.  Then, when he ends up proving her right, she forgives him and the three live happily ever after.  Her actions make no sense and just make her unlikeable.

There was so much time spent not explaining any of the financial lingo that there was no time for character development or any emotion whatsoever.  Buzz words like “Hedge Funds,” “refinance,” and “on margin” were thrown around like singles at Crazy Girls on a Thursday night.  I graduated college, I’m excellent at Scrabble and I still felt like I needed a degree in finance to understand anything. 

Even the dialogue that wasn’t financial in nature makes no sense.  The theme of the movie is expressed by Gordon Gekko himself:  “Money is not the prime asset in life, time is.”  What does that even mean?  I think Stone is trying to portray that Gekko feels bad that he didn’t have time with his daughter because money was so important to him.  But wouldn’t that mean that “relationships” are the prime asset in life?  Or that “family” is the prime asset in life?  Time is not an asset.  You can never attain more of it. 

The direction was even more boring than the dialogue.  Stone actually took one of the fastest moving industries in the world and made it drag on worse than The English Patient (1996).  And seriously, if I see one more time-lapsed establishing shot of New York City or the stock exchange I’m going to kill someone. 

The original Wall Street (1987) was so huge because it brought an emotional story against the back-drop of the gritty ruthless world of investment banking.  There was drama.  There were stakes.  There was heart.  There was NOT a happy Hollywood ending where everything tied up so nice and neat that it was absolutely appalling. 

I’d love to tell you more about this movie.  I’d love to give you examples of all the good things and offer a truly complete analysis.  But it was as if I was watching a Portugese film with no subtitles.  If I wanted a lesson in finance, I would have gone to an Economics class.

Short the stock (I learned that term this weekend).