WHY I HADN'T SEEN IT
While it has one of the most recognizable quotes ("Greed is good.") and one of the most famous villains (Michael Douglas in an Academy Award-winning performance as Gordon Gekko), I was under the impression the movie itself wasn't that great. It seems like a lot of people who reviewed the movie back when it came out complained about the 'liberal moralizing,' but those same critics now hold Gekko's attitude and behavior as a harbinger of our Great Recession. And really, it tells of financial manipulation that only increased through the 1990s and today (see Soros's breaking of the Sterling, for instance).
Wall Street, in its broadest sense, tells the story of desperately bored Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), longing to get ahead in his career and easily seduced into a less than reputable lifestyle by financial shark Gordon Gekko. Throughout his descent and subsequent redemption, he vacillates between the angels on his shoulder. His father (Martin Sheen), a hardworking union man, and Bud's boss try to keep Bud on a moral line, where there are no shortcuts to financial success. Gekko, however, sucks Bud in with a life of easy money, women and prestige, in exchange for what seemed like a minor trade-in of principle.
In the first few shots of the film, we meet Bud Fox getting onto a crowded elevator; he can already be seen as the slickest, oiliest looking person in the shot, hinting at his future corruption. Like Vito Corleone, he's not that "good" at the start, he just hasn't had the opportunity to sell his soul as yet. However, I had issues with Charlie Sheen's acting. Most of the time it was fine, but there were times when he seemed to predict Christian Bale's manic energy in American Psycho, which fit into the style of that movie, but definitely was jarring here. The best scenes were with his father, when he didn't seem to emit an air of complete disconnect with the world around him.
We hear about Gekko before we see him; he's an unapproachable pillar of the community that Bud had to call 59 days in a row before earning a 5 minute hearing. He certainly has a strong force of personality, but as I mentioned, Bud was never incorruptible, so Gekko doesn't have to drive too hard at him. But Gekko drives too hard anyway, and that's how he loses Bud. There were instances when I thought Gekko is really not the criminal mastermind that he fancies himself to be.
Side note: what is up with Daryl Hannah? She really does ruin everything she's in (except Bladerunner and Kill Bill). Seriously, no dramatic roles for her. And her RIDICULOUS outfits.
Side note: Am I the first person to notice that for whatever reason, it's a bunch of women leaving the auditorium when Gekko begins his iconic speech?
Wall Street provides strong insight into the mentality of a certain type of financial professional - the ones that pursue money, more money, at no cost. While a lot of the chicanery used in this film died when the internet came along, it's not difficult to imagine this sort of manipulation is still going on, just harder to trace.
The story was suspenseful and gripping, but I wonder how much of it is incomprehensible to those that don't follow or understand the stock market (judging by the media, lots)
I'll leave you with the most telling exchange in the film, between Bud and Darian during an intimate moment on the beach:
Bud: "Well, what do you want?"
Darian: "A genuine Turner. World peace. The best of everything."
Bud: "Why stop at that?"
Darian: "I don't."