Money Still Talks On 'Wall Street'
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
The most enduring phrase of the go-go '80s may well be: greed is good. And the most enduring personification of all that good greed is Gordon Gekko, the character portrayed by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film "Wall Street."
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WALL STREET")
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: (as Gordon Gekko) See that building? I bought that building 10 years ago - my first real estate deal. Sold it two years later; made an $800,000 profit. It was better than sex. That time I thought that was all the money in the world. Now it's a day's pay.
LOUISE KELLY: Our friend in the business world, Joe Nocera, has seen both films and he's with us now in our New York bureau. Good morning, Joe.
JOE NOCERA: Good morning. How are you?
LOUISE KELLY: We're great down here, thanks. So the original "Wall Street" movie tapped right into that zeitgeist, the financial excesses of the 1980s. Does the sequel do the same thing for Wall Street circa 2008?
NOCERA: And so, as a result, the plot of the movie seems almost beside the point. And all the stuff, which I view as very dramatic, that leads to the financial crisis kind of takes place offstage. So you kind of miss the essential drama of the crisis.
LOUISE KELLY: Well, do you think Oliver Stone has a point? You know, we hear so much about these buzzwords of this particular crisis - credit default swaps - I mean it's not the stuff of a screenwriter's dream.
NOCERA: So I actually do think one could have done a movie about that. He chose not to. When you go back and watch the 1987 movie here in 2010, you think, oh my God, he really captured that era. And in this movie, when you watch it, you don't have that same thought. You think this is a movie with Wall Street as a backdrop, but it's not really a movie that captures what happened in 2007, 2008 the way the '87 movie did.
LOUISE KELLY: Let me ask you how the main character, Gordon Gekko, fares. In the original movie he was the biggest bull on Wall Street. In the sequel he's on TV pitching his book "Is Greed Good?" Let me play you a bit where he gets asked about that.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS")
LOUISE KELLY: You know, I saw you on television the other night. You were quite the bear. And be careful, you know, your daughter's financial health is now in our hands.
DOUGLAS: Unidentified Man (Actor): (as character) Yeah.
DOUGLAS: (as Gordon Gekko) So it is. (Unintelligible) crap the way you keep buying it. Raise insurance swaps lately? I mean I got to worry about my grandchildren's college education.
LOUISE KELLY: Is there a message in this movie, in the way that the original movie was very much a cautionary tale about greed and excess? Gordon Gekko was very greedy. He ends up in prison at the end of it. Do the characters here get a comeuppance in that same way?
NOCERA: They go through various life crises and this and that, but the ultimate story of, you know, whether a firm deserves to live or die, whether Wall Street did things that were terrible for which a price should be paid, whether people need to go to jail - none of that is in the movie. And the whole comeuppance aspect or the message aspect, I think, is pretty muddled and more or less missing from this movie.
LOUISE KELLY: Thanks, Joe.
NOCERA: Thanks so much.
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