Wednesday, August 18, 2004

wall street

watched this one in glimpses for the first time a while back. watched it more comprehensively about a week ago.

let's see. what did it win. michael douglas as gecko got himself a best actor oscar. which is fair enough, you fancy. he's very good in this film, kickstarting a career-full of similar performances - the angsty but oddly charismatic middle-aged men of films such as 'the game', 'basic instinct' & 'traffic'.

but he's far & away the highlight of the movie. it's a film full of faults. douglas is good, no doubt, but he's on an olivier-like level compared to his co-stars. charlie sheen is lukewarm & absolutely freezing from scene to scene. he does the slick-haired young go-getter thing nicely early on in the film, but degenerates badly as his character is challenged by the hidden non-niceties of the street. here in wall street, cast primarily i suspect for the charlie/martin curiosity factor, charlie had a chance to assume a mantle tom cruise would eventually master for the next decade - that of the first-choice actor for young-turbulent-but-talented-professional roles. he had the preferred black hair & everything.

but cruise, while not brilliant, does the intensity thing so much better. after inadvertently discovering that gecko plans to rip his dad's company to shreds, charlie stumbles from the board of director's meeting & onto 'the street', where stone frames him slightly from below, sighing heavily & leaning against a tree. 'oh look', one is tempted to say, 'charlie is leaning against a tree. that's nice'. such is the 'drama' of the moment.

similarly about two minutes later, sheen (now drunk & doing an appallingly crap drunk at that) & his love-interest, darryl hannah, come to verbal blows over the virtues of the money-game. it's easily the worst scene in the film, & surely one of the worst scenes in stone's ouevre. it's also one of the only times sheen & hannah are on camera alone together - something we should be thankful for. throughout the film hannah delivers one of the worst performances i've ever seen (she arrives in the film interestingly enough, as a sharply-spoken interior designer), but is dreadful when trying to counter sheen's equally shit drunken outbursts against gecko. storming out of their apartment ("you walk out that door, i'm changin the locks!" screams sheen convincingly), hannah ends up seeing herself in a disjointed hallway mirror shortly afterwards. cue the imagistic cliches oliver! ugh!

& in part that's one of the main problems with the film. it's full of weak cinematographic conceits which seem so contrived when you realise this is a conventional rags-to-riches-to-rags melodrama overlaid with stone's own anti-capitalist didacticisms. heated exchange between sheen & douglas - ohh, cut to shot from gecko's perspective, looking 'out' at sheen from a limousine or pristine office, thus suggesting the true underlying gulf between gecko's & fox's (sheen's) world. the character-study stuff just doesn't stack up beside the monolithic presence of the film's true capitalist anti-hero - gecko. he is the film. the shareholder's meeting 'greed is good' speech - best scene in the film, no doubt. stone, framing douglas electioneering among the shareholders from the perspective of the overpaid vice-presidents on the stage, encapsulates nicely the sense that these stock-giants like to think of themselves as people's people. gecko is a convincing capitalist politician. the characters around him? just devices. ways of driving the surrounding tale. even terence stamp, such an accomplished actor, wavers in his portrayal of gecko's rival capitalist monster. he has this weird english/australian way of talking (strangely interspersing 'mate' a lot in his arguments with gecko), & ends up coming across as a philanthropic good-guy by the end of the film. an odd character.

kudos to stone, tho, for his handling of the film's more dramatic sequences. it takes technical talent to make the stockmarket exciting, talent to make the frenzied buying & selling of 'Bluestar Airlines' (late in the film) seem intense. & i love the vision of the buyers/sellers on the floor of the exchange itself. stone really gets us in amongst them at times. truly dramatic.

probably worth watching for the 'good solid yarn' factor.


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