The Release of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has been postponed until September for reasons which are still unclear to me. In Cannes, journalists got a sneak peek at the sequel to the Oliver Stone classic. Sarah Hepola of Salon has written an early review and a report of the press conference with Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas:
“Oliver and I were both pretty stunned by the way people perceived Gekko,” Michael Douglas told a packed press conference after the film’s Friday morning preview screening. “He was a very well-written villain, and people are always attracted to villains. But we never imagined that all these MBAs, all these kids coming out of business school, would say he was the person they wanted to be.
“This time around, we saw an opportunity to start him over again from the bottom. And it’s really ambivalent. The biggest question I get about Gordon in this movie is: Has he changed? Is he a changed man? Well, you don’t find out until the end.”
Along with Douglas, Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan in leading roles, Stone’s terrific supporting cast includes Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Vanessa Ferlito and 94-year-old Eli Wallach, sensational as a sinister Wall Street patriarch. Although the title has a nicely evocative ring, it’s actually bowdlerized: “Money,” Gekko tells would-be son-in-law Jacob Moore (LaBeouf) on a New York subway car, “is the bitch who never sleeps.” In other words, one night she’ll get away from you.
While the movie has moments of beauty (thanks to cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto) and considerable thoughtfulness, I only wish it had more of the mordant masculine menace suggested by that scene. Stone and his writers, Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, do indeed seek to tear Gekko down and then rebuild him, perhaps hoping to lay bare the essential nature of the man, and of the culture of endless accumulation and manipulation that he represents.
Brolin’s character, however, is ancillary to the movie’s central triangle, in which each member ostensibly wants the same thing — to heal the rift between Winnie and her father — but none of them is being entirely straightforward. Jake is a classic capitalist idealist, who believes he can make a killing on Wall Street while funding a major societal breakthrough (a voodoo-flavored fusion-energy scheme). Winnie wants to put her left-wing investigative website on the map with a major scoop. (No, as far as I can tell it’s not supposed to be Salon.) And Gordon wants … well, what the hell do you suppose Gordon wants?
If you think it’s a bit rich to sit around at a resort town in the south of France with a bunch of people from Hollywood talking about the evils of capitalism, well, you’d be right. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what we did at the press conference, which offered one of the most felicitous and absurd combinations I’ve experienced in several years of coming here.
Asked by an Arab journalist whether the film was “anti-capitalist,” Stone paused for a long moment and chose his words carefully. Stone is not entirely unlike Gekko, in that he plays a double game and is always in danger of succumbing to moral hazard. He hangs out with Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro (with whom he recently filmed a third and presumably final interview), but also wants to keep on making Hollywood movies and flying first-class to Cannes on somebody else’s nickel.
“I’m confused, as are many people right now, about whether capitalism in its present form will work,” he finally said. “It seems not. It goes beyond America, of course, to England and Greece and many other places. It looks like we need serious reform and regulation.
“You know, when I look back at the ’80s, it’s like we all got drunk. In 1987, I thought was going to correct itself. But it didn’t. It got worse. The real income of the American worker flattened out in 1973, but American productivity went way up. So there’s a real imbalance between what ordinary people make and what the bosses and managers, the people at the top, make. It’s an enormous problem.”