CANNES (May 14) -- If the idea of watching men in suits squander our money and flush us down the financial toilet again sounds repugnant, then you might be pleasantly surprised by the new film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." Director Oliver Stone's recession-fueled sequel premiered Friday at the Cannes Film Festival, applying Hollywood gloss to a crisis that is all too real for most of us.
Gussied up with fancy suits, lustful looks at skyscrapers and a tale of lost fathers, "Wall Street" No. 2 manages to be easily digestible between the snack of your choice and the filmmaker's message: "I'm confused, as are many people in the room, as to whether capitalism can work," Stone said Friday at the press conference.
The movie, opening Sept. 24 in the states, will stoke your anger. It might even provide an outlet. Your gutted 401(k)s? It would take millions of them to match the sticker price on a Goya painting smashed by the new villain, played by Josh Brolin.
The pink slip from the job that was to provide your golden umbrella? Your dearly departed salary and bennies kinda pale next to the $1.4 million bonus that Shia LaBeouf's idealistic and money-grubbing Jake gets for nothing, don't they?
Then just when you've had it with the replay of why you can't afford your kid's tuition this year, "Wall Street" cuts to the flesh and blood of the matter. Newly released prisoner Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), the Armani'd slime who in the 1987 original inspired a generation to pursue MBAs, wants to reconnect with his daughter (Carey Mulligan), who is shacked up with Jake. But this is more about Jake needing a daddy. His real one's gone and his mentor at the trading firm (Frank Langella) throws himself in front of a subway train. So Gekko and Jake forge an alliance based on revenge, profit and, heh-heh, altruism.
But Gekko's declares to an audience at his book-signing that not only is greed good, "Now it seems greed is legal," signaling that he might not be the best father-in-law material.
The conflict carries enough drama to distract. For a while the avarice and ego look sexy. Then we cut to the murky financial
machinations that thread through the plot. A hedge-fund disaster here, a valuation lie there. A primer on economic meltdowns this isn't.
We know we got screwed. We know we screwed ourselves, too. We just need a convenient scapegoat. Feel free to use Brolin's Bretton James as a punching-bag composite of every broker, realtor, trader or banker who sold you something they knew they shouldn't have in the last five years. I felt a little better.
Then sit back and watch the bar graphs plummet and hearts break. Some of the principals confront their selfishness only when it's too late. That just stoked my resentment more.
You'll still be pissed when the lights come up. This is entertainment, not a bailout.
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