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Cannes 2010. Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"

David Hudson

Cannes 2010

"Michael Douglas returns as ruthless Wall Street trader Gordon Gekko, out of the joint, enjoying his new celebrity as a semi-recovering dosh addict and still looking to make a deal," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "As the man himself puts it: 'Money's the bitch that never sleeps, and she's jealous.' That charmless maxim should alert you to the fact that this is a male picture about male heroes, with phallic Cohibas (Cuban cigars) and motorbikes. Twenty-three years on, Oliver Stone has given us the sequel to the most unsubtle father-son parable in cinema history, theoretically rebooted for our new post-crash era, but in actuality just as saucer-eyed and uncritically celebratory about it all as ever."

"The return of Douglas as Gekko is problematic," finds Anne Thompson. "He's also sharing the screen with the younger generation, Carey Mulligan as his anti-Wall Street blogger daughter Winnie and Shia LaBeouf as her fiance, another Wall Street player who believes in funding green technology. The film plays out the question of whether Gekko is reformed, after eight years in prison. Does he really want to win back a relationship with his daughter, or is he like the scorpion who can't help his nature?... The movie pops in and out of satirizing and referencing itself and trying to create an authentic drama. And yet it moves along entertainingly, even if the resolution seems Hollywood pat."

"This time around the personification of the system is Josh Brolin, a stand-in for Goldman Sachs who lives beneath an 'early sketch' of Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son and actually utters the fatal words, 'We're Too Big To Fail.'" The Voice's J Hoberman: "Of course, no crisis is too great for Oliver Stone to over-leverage. If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit: Wall Street conceals its trite dialogue beneath a cacophony of rumbling subways and shouting TV nudniks, not to mention a veritable tickertape parade of jargon. It tarts up its stale glamour with split-screen, time lapse, and CNN graphics. The ambition is evident and the effort disarming even if the effect is less than consequential — if ever a movie cried out for 3-D it's this one!"

"If you don't work in the financial sector I suggest you take a crib sheet to the film explaining terms like sub-prime mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps," suggests Kate Muir in the London Times. "You'll also need to know the basic principles of nuclear fusion-based seawater energy production. Beneath the information overload, however, there are some great performances and Douglas is still terrific, although increasingly raddled.... But Wall Street 2 gets four stars for old time's sake — and for its music by David Byrne and Brian Eno, an appropriately retro choice."

"Stone and his savvy writers, Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, have crafted a tale that takes advantage of viewers' newfound knowledge and cynicism," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "The film overheats now and then but blame this on filmmaking passion. One senses a fully engaged filmmaker at the helm, driving the movie at a lightning pace as if in a hurry to get to the next scene or next aphorism that further illuminates this dark world. How audiences will react to revelations that may no longer be revelations is hard to say."


Grades are mixed at Letras de Cine.

Interviews with Stone: Claude Brodesser-Akner (Vulture) and the Hollywood Reporter.

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on the press conference.

Perhaps only tangentially related, but still: a Bookforum roundup Wall Street and the mess we're in.

Updates: "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps isn't nearly as serious as the original," writes Brad Brevet, "but it manages to swim in the same waters despite the two decades between the films and the change in the marketplace. This time around the greed of Gordon Gekko is now sought on an even higher level by the banks and their partners whom when asked how much money is enough can only answer, 'More.' While 'More' isn't as catchy as 'Greed is good,' it certainly gets to the heart of the matter."

"That Mulligan and LaBeouf's earnest for-love-or-money romance is allowed to become the center track of the narrative is unfortunate, suggesting the writers are taking the whole enterprise rather more seriously than everyone else," writes Guy Lodge at In Contention. "Happily, the high camp served up by Stone and his senior cast members is loud and lurid enough to swallow these lulls: more, they have concluded, is definitely more. One senses Gordon Gekko would approve."

Mark Adams for Screen: "Oliver Stone directs with a suitably slick style, making great use of his New York locations and not afraid to throw in an obvious linking shot (scenes of kids blowing bubbles in Central Park cues up the bursting of the financial bubble) and also gives himself a couple of cameo scenes. Running well over two hours, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps lacks a real sense of dramatic urgency, but one can't deny its polish and poise."

"Like its predecessor, Money Never Sleeps is very well-timed," writes Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, "but unlike the original Wall Street, it's trying so self-consciously to be a zeitgeist movie that almost nothing in it is casual or incidental. It's not so much ripped from the headlines as it is derived, thought out, and processed from the headlines. The movie is no classic, but it's vibrantly acted and entertainingly overstuffed, a shrewd and complex finance melodrama that pulses along with hardboiled verve."

"[T]he new film initially takes good and opportunistic advantage of contemporary financial woes to detail the malfeascence of bankers and traders," writes Todd McCarthy. "But the script feels like a pasted-together hodgepodge of elements that co-exist without credibly blending together, topped by a climax that feels particularly hokey in its effort to leave audiences comfortable rather than disturbed by what they've just seen. It's surprising for Oliver Stone to propagate an air of complacency about the financial state of things, but that's the effect of the outrageously false feel-good ending. There are moments that bare more teeth than W. did, but they're mostly in the first couple of reels."

Time Out London's Dave Calhoun: "The problem with this film is that if you put in front of a bunch of bankers, they'd laugh their heads off and feel a swell of pride at the thought that they inhabit a world as glamorous as that suggested by Stone's indulging of the New York skyline and the trappings of excessive wealth. It's hardly satire. This is a pulp novelisation of the banking crisis and its pleas for relevance ring very hollow."

"For at least its first half, [Money Never Sleeps] may be the cinema's best dramatization of the 2008 financial meltdown," writes Anthony Kaufman for IFC.com. "With its rapidly cut split-screens and downward spiraling electronic numbers reflecting on the panicked face of its protagonist Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), the film captures the fast, frenzied terror of computer-driven economic freefall like nothing else on recent screens. The digital trickery of such sequences — not to mention some fantastic animated end credits — shows that Stone has embraced the new technologies of filmmaking with innovative panache. Too bad that hackneyed Hollywood melodramatic clichés get in the way of the final result."

For the New York Times, Manohla Dargis meets Michael Douglas: "We had only a short time together, but he delivered, immediately taking off his sunglasses as we sat down for some manufactured intimacy. I asked general questions, not yet having seen the movie. And he in turn provided the kind of boilerplate that works in every language."

"Stone's long-delayed Wall Street sequel will surely make news as the first major motion picture to dramatize the worldwide financial crisis, and to point the finger squarely at those who induced it, exacerbated it and lied about it." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "But I also think Stone's new film expresses a more personal, intimate sense of moral hazard, which more broadly indicates the possibility that one or more parties to a contract may lie, cheat, steal or otherwise behave badly."

"Whatever you wind up thinking of the film, it offers the rare spectacle not only of a star-driven studio sequel that's also serious-minded, but a Hollywood movie that lands right in the middle of a news cycle, not years after it," blogs Steven Zeitchik for the Los Angeles Times.

"The ending, at once soft and unsatisfying, seems awfully compromised and too withholding by half to register the necessary shock to the system or emotional surprise," finds Patrick Z McGavin. "These are characters worth returning to. One just wishes, quoting Gertrude Stein, there were more there there."

"Did the director of JFK make another conspiracy film?" asks New York's Logan Hill. "Absolutely. There's a shadowy, wood-paneled room where powerful white billionaires, from both the Fed and the Street, meet to decide the fate of companies — and, not surprisingly, decide that they should get bailout money to be reimbursed in full for their risky losses. At times, the film feels like a supercharged, angry editorial: a kind of 'steroid filmmaking.'"

Updates, 5/15: "It's not the lack of subtlety that is most deplorable in Money Never Sleeps — only a fool would expect subtlety from an Oliver Stone venture." Richard Porton in the Daily Beast: "The problem is that narrative coherence is constantly sacrificed to make room for a supposedly anti-Establishment director's obsession with the preservation of the family unit. This is, after all, a film in which a compressed account of the American economic 'apocalypse' is interrupted by Winnie's breathless announcement to Jake that she's pregnant. The audience is then implicitly charged with judging which event is more earth-shattering. It is in fact rather baffling why Stone and his screenwriters insist that Winnie, the recalcitrant daughter who rebels by writing crusading anti-capitalist articles for a liberal website called Frozen Truth, must be reconciled with her errant father. All told, it would be more appropriate, and infinitely more entertaining, if she tried to bomb the offices of Churchill Schwartz."

"The paradox this sequel can never quite escape is that for all Stone's sideswipes at the iniquities of the banking system, characters such as Gekko and James are portrayed as masters of the universe," writes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent. "They may be malign but they are still charismatic and powerful figures who lead glamorous lives and look like objects of envy as much as of disdain."

Mike D'Angelo at the AV Club: "Oliver Stone has never been known for his subtlety, but this baldly opportunistic sequel is so overstuffed with dumb metaphors, stupid graphic tricks and actorly flourishes... that it becomes impossible to watch with a straight face, even though fully half of the picture is devoted to a soggy subplot about Gekko’s desire to reconcile with his daughter. The other half is basically just a lot of finger-wagging about leveraged debt, with poor Michael Douglas, whose wily performance was the original’s only real virtue, so neutered here that he’s reduced to dispensing fatherly advice."

"By almost any objective standard, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is not a good film," writes Matt Noller at the House Next Door. "It's loud, preachy, simple-minded, completely lacking in anything even approaching sophistication or control. But, for these very same reasons, it can also be tremendously entertaining, playing a bit like a knowing self-parody of Stone's typical bombast."

Roger Ebert talks with Stone and Douglas.

Update, 5/16: Did Time's Richard Corliss just write that? "Moving as fast, boldly and recklessly as a trillion-dollar fat-fingered stock-market transaction, the film has the drive, luxe and sarcastic wit of the snazziest Hollywood movies. To the international audience of money men and critics assembled here, it shows that in the pop-culture business, America is No. 1."

Update, 5/17: Aaron Hillis in Moving Pictures Magazine: "Stone's timing couldn't have been more relevant for a sequel to revisit Gekko's domain, but instead of the angry, shrewdly prescient critique of Greed 2.0 we need, we're unfortunately given the product we deserve: an innocuous, overcooked studio entertainment with a hypocritically bloated budget and sense of itself."

Update, 5/19: James Rocchi talks with Stone and the cast for MSN Movies.

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Cannes 2010: Coverage of the coverage index.


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