Making the Grades
I don’t even pretend to understand the slight-of-hand techniques behind hedge funds and leveraging, but I do know this: cotton candy is not a life sustaining food source. And as good as it looks, there is nothing financially sound about the sugary floss being tossed around as worthwhile investments in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. While the artificially inflated market might appear healthy from the outside, it only takes one bite to realize the sham.
Still many of the movers and shakers in this film see nothing wrong with actively procuring more money than they can ever possibly spend. Living a life studded with diamonds and other expensive excesses, they jeopardize their investors and ultimately the nation in their quest for more. Yet a monetary debacle for one person often turns into a windfall for another in this greedy game.
If anyone in this movie recognizes the fallibility of the marketplace, it is Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Fresh out of prison after serving a sentence for insider trading, he is grayer and grizzlier—but repentant? Hardly! In fact, he sees himself as a kind of prophet when he predicts the fallout in the 2008 financial market. Setting himself up in a rented apartment, he, like many criminals before him, hits the speaker’s circuit and goes on book signing tours where he gets paid good cash to rehash the finer points of his fiscal wizardry.
At one of these events, he meets Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a young Wall Street trader who happens to be engaged to his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Despite Gordon’s disastrous experience as a father (caused in large part by his obsession with money instead of family), the disgraced stockbroker wants to rebuild his relationship with his only remaining child. Engaging in insider trading of a different sort, Gordon and Jacob begin secretly meeting behind Winnie’s back to make some mutually beneficial deals. In exchange for arranging a meeting for Gordon with his estranged daughter, Jacob gets help from his future father-in-law to bring down one of the biggest bankers on Wall Street.
Unfortunately putting his trust in a man known for lying is a dangerous trap. And regardless of his aggressively nervy business abilities, Jacob soon finds himself caught in a snare that threatens his whole future.
Some strong sexual expletives, combined with themes of dishonesty and lying, make this story a poor investment for most families’ entertainment funds. And though Director Oliver Stone puts the spotlight on the danger of speculative ventures, the film really fails to do more than say, "We have a problem." (That’s small solace for the thousands who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the real downturn.) Rather it seems that a few of the greedy get their hands slapped and then it is back to business until the next bubble bursts.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
The original Wall Street movie released in 1987 and follows an impetuous young trader who is eager to hit it big fast. How does that same attitude contribute to the characters actions in the sequel? Is greed still a motivation?
One of the characters in the movie accuses the media of selling fear. Do you agree with this assessment? Why do some news programmers adhere to the quip, “if it bleeds, it leads?” How do panic and rumors impact the market in this movie? What do the brokers tell their investors?
Jacob believes that everyone has a certain amount of money that, if acquired, would make them content to focus on their family, philanthropy and other good things in life rather than seeking more dollars. Does that seem to apply to any of the characters in this film? Do you have a number that would satisfy you? Why do needs and wants often seem to grow in proportion to a person’s income?