Early estimates indicate that Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” won this weekend’s box office, though numbers are turning in lower than some projected. It’s hard to judge what might have led to the low turnout — this year’s offerings have failed to impress moviegoers in general — but one possible explanation might be that the movie’s subject matter hit too close to home. “Could a work of fiction possibly match the reality of the past few years, with credit default swaps, foundering subprime mortgages,” and economic hardships? asks Newsday‘s John Anderson. To prepare for his role, star Shia LaBeouf even reportedly played the market. With movie critics split on the film, here’s a look at what Wall Street’s real bankers — and those who cover them — had to say about the movie, its 1987 original, and the larger-than-life Gordon Gekko:
Nothing here is new: “Wall Street has been dragged through the mud in the last year or so. It has been scapegoated,” Igor Kirman, a partner Wall Street lawyer told Reuters. “There is nothing that Oliver Stone is going to say . . . in this movie that our president has not said himself. It’s not going to be a huge punch against Wall Street.”
It’s not perfect, but it works: “Money Never Sleeps is a serviceable dramatization of what really happened from March to October 2008,” says Rick Newman at U.S. News & World Report. “Acted scenes are interspersed with real news footage from the crisis, with commentators like Nouriel Roubini and Warren Buffett telling America how terrible it really is. Haven’t we seen this movie before?”
Stone blames the wrong guys: “Economists will long debate the relative contributions of monetary policy, legislation, and regulation, but no serious study will ever conclude that an unexplained upsurge in greed set the chain of events in motion,” says Martin Fridson at The Wall Street Journal.
Hollywood must hate stock brokers: “Is there a profession more reviled in Hollywood? Hookers are given hearts of gold, lawyers can be crusading. Hell, even drug dealers get the girl. But brokers. Nope,” Bob Mondello at NPR asserts.
The movie’s too simplistic…: “But Stone doesn’t have any explanations for the financial crisis except that people on Wall Street are very greedy, which is good so far as it goes but not particularly compelling,” says Tim Fernholz at The American Prospect. “We don’t hear about unemployment or the recession, or even the political consequences of the bank bailout.”
…so we need another film: This is “a missed opportunity to shed light on the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. The crash of 2008 deserves a defining film. This isn’t it,” proclaims says Eric Schurenberg at CBS’ MoneyWatch. “But context matters when you’re talking about current events; and as a chronicle of the crisis, the film is not much use.” Other reports and recaps will serve you better.