Director:Release Date: 06/10/10 Link: IMDB Written by Tara Judah Oliver Stone’s much anticipated (for a lengthy twenty-three years) follow-up to his acclaimed 1987 release of Wall Street, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, sees Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) return to cinema screens to tidily suggest that greed is not only good but in fact essential in achieving both a successful personally fulfilling career as well as a full familial subsistence in the ideological and, at its heart, capitalist haven that is The American Dream. Following a small stint behind bars (and accounting for the decades past in its wake) Gordon Gekko has had nothing but time to reflect; upon the impending global financial crisis, as well as his estranged relationship with daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan.) Released back into a world where money is still a king amongst plebs, forgotten by the financial sector and shunned by his contemporaries, Gekko speaks to a new generation of ivy-league greed wannabes; the young, ambitious Jacob “Jake” Moore (Shia LaBeouf) in attendance. Trading as only the ruthless, indignant child of hyper-capitalism could, Jake, who is all too conveniently engaged to the same Winnie from whom Gekko is estranged, offers him the possibility of familial reconciliation in exchange for a sort of mentoring on how to beat his professional adversaries at their own game. Enter Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the film’s notable “bad” guy billionaire at whose hands Jake’s previous mentor and stand-in father Lewis Zabel (Frank Langella) lost his trading empire, in an incredulous act of hearsay-sabotage resulting in a sudden market crash. Holding Bretton responsible, Jake goes to work for him, plotting his revenge from within. But are the scrappy charms of young underdog LaBeouf any match for Brolin’s force field of pearly whites? With about as much subtlety and nuance as one has come to expect from director Oliver Stone, the film presents three major “concerns”: 1) sustainability insofar as it informs the continued success of The American Dream, 2) a sound ideological state apparatus to steadily underpin the repressive ones, and 3) the persistence of the patriarch. That Jake works for a firm interested in pushing the merits of fusion technology - a green, sustainable alternative energy source - is in fact less about its being green as it is about the idea that for America to remain the capitalist cohort it currently is, it will need to find a renewable source of something to ensure future longevity as a global superpower. That his girlfriend Winnie – the only character in the film to opt out of the “rat race” - runs a not for profit website, “The Frozen Truth”, which exposes the unethical activities of “evil corporations” (wonderfully ironic seeing as she is entirely blind to the unethical activities of her live-in lover) is Stone’s way of telling his audience that any supposed conspiracy or oppressive forces at play are transparent; one need only look to various forms of media for such a revelation. Brilliant. This, along with the idea that a new generation of go-getters will become America’s true future stocks and bonds, the family unit a necessity for “sustainable growth”, only confirms a somewhat frightening ideological apparatus at play; feeding into more repressive ones, such as the financial institutions who represent, in this context at least, the authorities. Far from well hidden subtext, Stone eventually just comes out with it and he has one of the many indistinguishable power men in the film complain that the very thing these institutions have been fighting against is fast becoming a reality: as a “bail-out” becomes the only viable option it is clear that socialism is a dirty word. Although the film isn’t just Douglas throwing down the proverbial gauntlet for LaBeouf; there is at least a lengthy thread of absent / surrogate / mentor / disciplinary father running through the film and as such the idea of the younger generation being “our future” certainly comes to the fore as a “concern” for Stone; it seems his greatest fear is an America without a strong generation of young alpha males who can carry on the capitalist dream. Certainly Gordon Gekko’s only true crime concerns questions of morality; in not providing sufficient guidance to his son Rudy who as a result went off the rails and topped himself. A strong father figure who can successfully balance financial and parental obligation seems key to the success of the family unit and therefore the nation, in Stone’s eyes. Clearly the women in the film are merely incidental. As one of two “significant” females in the film, Carey Mulligan joins Susan Sarandon (who plays Jake’s financially irresponsible mother) as a whimpering woman with absolutely no agency and little more than an attitude of annoying defiance, fanciful whim and constantly dripping taps for tear ducts. Packed full of the sort of institutionalized jargon you would expect from a film about the global financial crisis, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, doesn’t really “offer” much in the way of explanation or revelation beyond “the bubble burst”. But what it does do is provide a strange melding together of financial structure and familial structure, providing the fairly conservative view that the stability of the former rests primarily upon the stability of the latter. Full of terribly obvious imagery such as young children (presumably America’s future men and their brainlessly supportive women) carefree in the park, blowing bubbles which, unsurprisingly, expand and burst, as well as some visually abrasive computer generated images, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a film so many have waited so long to see, is entertaining enough even if it is selling “moral hazard” as the new brand of hysteria. Question is, with the global market as it stands, who’s buying it?
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