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Oct 23, 2010 3:29:20 PM - thesundayleader.lk

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps And Neither Do We!

By Sumaya Samarasinghe

Like Julie Andrews will always be ‘Mary Poppins’, Michael Douglas will forever be associated to the character of Gordon Gekko, a ruthless corporate raider and hero of the original Wall Street ( 1987) which ended with him being sentenced to eight years in jail for insider trading and security fraud.
In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Gekko is back. The film begins with Douglas’s character being released from jail and while his cell-mate buddies seem to have a dozen people waiting for them when the gates of the prison open setting them free, Gordon is absolutely and completely alone. Years behind bars has done ample good to Gordon who despite having had time to ponder about the pro and cons of money; has not lost his arrogance and his ego which he himself compares to the size of Antarctica!

Director Oliver Stone’s cynical outlook on life and human nature is sadly most of the time realistic because the truth of the matter is that people hardly ever change. Fast forward seven years. Gordon has written a best seller Is Greed Good? and is giving extremely well attended public lectures during which Jake, a young and successful trader, informs him that he is on the verge of marrying Winnie, Gordon’s daughter from whom he has been estranged for several years.

Jake worked for a once very successful investment bank, ‘Keller Zabel Investments’ which is badly hit by the 2008 financial meltdown and leads to the suicide of the head Louis Zabel played by the always great Frank Langella. The huge difference in this sequel is that Gordon Gekko seems to have grown a quarter of a heart and though he will never be ‘a nice guy’, the director’s psychology of the characters is unfortunately quite obvious. Gekko will have a few setbacks, but on the whole, he is a lonely man who may have all the money and talent in the world, but still needs someone to care about him and to care for.

The message that the love of money is the root of all evil is dished out constantly. Susan Sarandon plays Jake’s mother who is incapable of managing her cash and turns to her son for constant bailouts. Winnie (Carey Mulligan), has completely erased from her memory the fact that her father hid millions of dollars in her name in an account in Switzerland. Only Jake seems to be emotionally detached from cash and though he lives very comfortably and buys huge diamond rings for his fiancé, he is quick at distributing the money towards causes and to people he loves.

Zabel, a little prior to his death seems sad and bitter at the way his life is going despite having made millions so yes, yes and yes, we do understand that money does not bring happiness. Thankfully Gordon is there, enjoying every minute of his newfound freedom and the perks of having some cash in the pockets. He is that little evil side in all of us, the one that is scared to admit that money helps, money makes life simpler and money isn’t that bad if you have enough of it.

For a non business mind like myself, I was wary of watching this film simply because I was anxious about not understanding a word of the plot. The good news is that I did. Director Oliver Stone is not one for unanswered questions which is excellent because every bit of the scenario is “made simple” and “makes sense”. The story is more about a revenge, Jake’s one against the man he thinks pushed Zabel to commit suicide and Gekko guides him towards his goal.
His cast is also perfectly chosen and the roles are well written. Carey Mulligan is her usual fantastic self and everyone else ceases to be the character they are meant to portray and just become that person. Shia LaBeouf whom I never took very seriously even though he is always good in his roles whether in thrillers like Disturbia or the Transformers series can definitely pull his weight through this movie and veterans like Michael Douglas. The latter is simply amazing. Additional years have given him extra charm and a sense of cool which he did not have in the first Wall Street.

So is having money good or bad? For Jake, it is just a tool, to change lives for the better, not something to accumulate and keep locked up in a safe. But as Gordon says (and he calls money SHE, like addressing a woman), one has to pay attention to her if not one day, she will be gone forever.
Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps is a good sequel, not to be missed