Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
October 6, 2010

After seeing Oliver Stone’s latest film last week, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I chose not to review it, partly because I’m not sure how much my boss really wants to pay me to write about movies, but perhaps more importantly, at least for me, because I wasn’t really sure how to articulate my thoughts on it…that is until I saw The Social Network.

Now doing a review of a film by comparing it to a film it is completely unrelated to may not generally be the best way to review a film…but it seems to work here, so I plan to go with it.  (And those who read my review of The Social Network should have some idea of where I am headed with this.)

(Spoiler Alerts)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps tells the story of Wall Street Wonder boy Jake Moore, played by Shia LaBeouf, who may be a secret environmentalist crusader, or perhaps just an ambitious young man looking to invest in the next big thing…in the case of this film, fusion technologies. His mom, played by Susan Sarandon, is a nurse turned real-estate agent, coping with a changing real-estate market and the bleak possibility that she may have to return to the middle class. His girlfriend, Winnie Gekko, played by Carey Mulligan, is a young blogger trying to change the world through a hipper version of The Huffington Post. Also, Winnie is the daughter of Gordon Gekko, who Jake secretly becomes the protégé of, against Winnie’s wishes, once his long time mentor Louis Zabel, played by Frank Langella, commits suicide after his company is ruined. Through Gordon Gekko, Jake learns that the man responsible for the downfall of Zabel’s company is Josh Brolin’s cartooinshly evil, motorcycle racing, capitalist, Bretton James, who, as the film progresses, is shown as being at least partially responsible for the United State’s recent economic downturn, as well as Gordon Gekko’s incarceration.

In an effort to be relevant, Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps checks practically every liberal box of the last decade: capitalism is bad, the recession, the housing market, environmentalism and alternative energies, oil companies and investors suppressing the growth of such industries, and liberal blogging. But in a formulaic film with practically every character representing one or more of these positions, the film comes off as trying too hard. It feels as if a high school kid was given a prompt from his creative writing teacher to incorporate each of these ideas into a story. Although still entertaining enough, the result isn’t relevance but an amateurish attempt at it.

Now compare that to The Social Network from which relevance seems to effortlessly flow as it subtly captures a unique time and place in recent history.

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The Social Network
October 3, 2010

David Fincher’s The Social Network was released this week and was far more interesting and entertaining than most initially would think a movie about Facebook would be. Jesse Eisenberg, who a year or two ago was generally thought of as a second rate Michael Cera, does well as the film’s antihero, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, even if the film’s depiction of him as a socially awkward narcissist and brilliant programmer, who may have stolen the idea of Facebook from three of his fellow Harvard students, and who may have tricked his best friend and Facebook co-founder into blindly signing away his share of the company, remain open to debate.

Stylistically, the film is superb, brilliantly told from the points of view of multiple characters as they relate their accounts of the inception, creation, and evolution of Facebook at two separate depositions for legal proceedings against Zuckerberg.

Where last week’s Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps seemed dated and stilted either because of or in spite of its obvious attempts to tie current events and recent history to its plot, it was The Social Network that seemed relevant and down to earth as opposed designed as a soap box from which to whack people with a political message.

After a summer of mediocre popcorn pictures, save Inception, The Social Network is a welcome relief that also provides some fascinating insights into what it may have been like to be present at the birth of a worldwide cultural phenomenon.