Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Buy my book."

Let's get right to it, shall we?  Tales From the Script today looks at Oliver Stone's remake of Wall Street.  There will be spoilers aplenty and I should warn you up front, not only was I disappointed with the film, I didn't really care for it.  But it did offer an important lesson to aspiring writers and students of story.  Speaking of students of story, I made the finals again last night (reader beware: some of the entries were a bit gritty including an F-bomb or two).

Wall Street was well acted, well directed, well shot, and packed reasonable star power.  The writing was okay -- not inspired but sufficient for carrying the narrative.  In short, almost all of the pieces were there to make a good picture, perhaps no Oscar winner, but certainly an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.  What seems to have happened though was that “they” missed the first page of the "Make a good movie" book.  The page that says, "Thou shalt have a concept that people care about."  The central conceit of Wall Street is greed.  Everyone in it is greedy.  Even the girl who's only job is to say, "It's not about the money."  Watching her was like watching King Kong -- just replace the leading lady's scream with "It's not about the money."  But it wasn't really replaced because every time she said it, I screamed.

The problem with Wall Street was that the main idea didn't matter.  Rich people stealing from rich people.  Rich people stealing back.  New kid tied to old dog thru cheese whiz romance, always trying to get more.  The elements of the story that are supposed to make us care were tacked on as after thoughts.  Green Energy investment is supposed to make Shia more likable than Michael?  Really?  I think it makes him a dweeb.  He's gone all-in for a buzz word and you think, "How can anybody buy into this?"  Not because green is bad but because its inclusion in the story is so forced.

Michael Douglass was perfectly cast.  He's a sleaze ball in this film (like pretty much every other movie I've ever seen him in) and you don't ever have to guess what he's about.  Susan Sarandon nailed Long Island but, and I can't stress this enough, just because you can do a thing doesn't mean you should do a thing.

There were two good lines - both by Michael.  "Buy my book" being the funny one but at the expense of a monologue that lasted way, way too long.  The second, a well delivered "I'll make a deal with you.  You stop telling lies about me and I'll stop telling the truth about you."

There was plenty of good in the film, but it was all wasted because the central idea was bunk.  At the end of the day (really, about 5 minutes into the movie) we just don't care about the problems faced by investment bankers and the characters came off as self-absorbed brats throwing tantrums rather doing anything important.  They're rich and anyone who pays attention during election cycles knows that the bourgeois, those who buy the tickets, do not like the rich.

I asked my wife what she thought and after a minute she said, "I liked that one girl's hair."  You know the one, she kept saying, "It isn't about the money."

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