The lover of money will not be satisfied with money;
nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
Oliver Stone’s latest film begins with Gordon “Greed is Good” Gekko leaving prison after serving his sentence for insider trading. He stands outside the prison gate and watches as various individuals and families greet with smiles, tears, and hugs his fellow prisoners emerging with him. Soon he is alone. No one has come to welcome him to freedom.
Has Gekko learned anything from his years of imprisonment for wrongdoing following the events of the first Wall Street? We learn that he has a daughter named Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Will he connect with her, as she has long ago showed that she wanted nothing to do with him? And will he corrupt the young stockbroker Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) who befriends him (and who also wants to marry the daughter)? Watch and find out in this tale of money, and, of course, greed.
The story takes us into the offices and trading cubicles of the denizens of Wall Street, as well as a meeting of the Federal Reserve Board, the latter during the economic meltdown of the past few years. My head swims with some of the fast-paced action and dialogue, so I am looking forward to watching this again when it comes out on DVD. Oliver Stone mostly lets the characters’ actions speak for themselves, rather than judging them—except briefly at the ending, where he injects a note of cynicism. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews might have seen some of the characters as the exemplars of what he was warning us about.
Might contain spoilers.
1. In what ways (if any) do you see that Gordon Gekko has changed from the previous film?
2. Why is his daughter so unwilling to reconcile with him?
3. What do you think of Jake? Maybe a bit like a younger Gekko, or more likely, the ambitious broker Bud Fox played by Charlie Sheen in the original film? How is Louis Zabel, Jake’s mentor at Keller Zabel, a good stand-in for Bud Fox’s father, making this another story of the struggle for a young man’s soul?
4. How is Winnie the conscience in the film?
5. We have a new villain in Bretton James. Compare him to Gekko.
6. What do you make of the filmmakers’ use of “Tiny Apocalypse” by David Byrne? How is “Ev’ryday, a little apocalypse” an appropriate description of the financial meltdown chronicled in the film?
To read the lyrics and a biography of the writer/composer, go to: http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/david-byrne-lyrics. Scroll down the titles list and you can access the lyrics.
7. What do you think of Oliver Stone’s end credits featuring extreme close-ups of paper money? And the motto “In God We Trust” changes? Do you think this is a fair assessment of much of our culture? Do you think that the rise of casino gambling in the past 50 years confirms Stone’s assessment? Has much changed since Jesus made his famous declaration in Matthew 6:24?