Oct 7, 2010

Wall Street: no, not the new one

I recently had the fortune to rent Wall Street using the highly sophisticated Amazon.com media rental apparatus. This was in preparation to see the sequel the next evening, which I never got around to doing somehow.

Wall Street opens in a Manhattan high-rise office where fast-talking Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is starting his day as a small-time stock-broker. He cold calls possible clients, he jokes with co-workers, and at the end of a long day, he meets up with his blue collar dad (Martin Sheen) at a bar in one of the Burroughs to borrow money for rent. He explains that the glamor believed to be inherent in his chosen profession has not quite visited him yet. This go-getter soon finagles a meeting with famous investment banker Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). With inside information about his father's small airline operation, he wins an opportunity to invest for Gekko. They quickly become entangled in more illegal activity until it finally becomes obvious to Bud that his relationship with Gekko is corrosive to all his other connections, including and most clearly, his once warm rapport with his father. Sprinkled throughout with awesome 80s hairdos and an apartment-decorating montage that makes Daryl Hannah's involvement almost worthwhile, here is a movie that cannot fail to entertain, for the most part.

It is a shame, since the rest of the movie was really pretty good, that I keep obsessing about the train wreck that was Daryl Hannah's portrayal of Darien Taylor, an almost useless character, made completely so by her abysmal acting. The conversation I keep having with my hubby goes a little something like this:

ME: How is it possible for someone to play a part as poorly as Daryl Hannah did in Wall Street?
HUBBY: I know! She looks like a dude, especially in the checker-pattern blazer with the hulking shoulder pads.
ME: I think they over-dubbed each and every one of her lines, and badly.
HUBBY: She must have been sleeping with Oliver Stone, but I have to wonder why a prominent director would choose to sleep with a woman who looks so much like a dude. He could get anyone back then, right?
ME: Maybe he had a thing for really fluffy, yet somehow wispy, blonde hair in the 80s.

This topic of conversation keeps coming up. Her blank stare was devoid of emotion. Her monotone drone jolted me out of the action. In Short Circuit, Johnny 5 played his part with more inflection.

Put Daryl Hannah aside and you have a decent film about greed and how it can sully personal relationships. I enjoyed the straightforward plot line. The characters were somewhat 2 dimensional at times, but there were other moments when Sheen and Douglas really hit the mark. Most of the things I can think of to criticize are cosmetic (some of them quite literally) and made the film fun to heckle aloud, so I cannot complain too much. Douglas' make-up artist should have been fired on day one of shooting for the red lipstick and blue eyeliner he/she seemed to think did not make him look like a clown. Sean Young (that fixture of 80s supporting roles) appeared in only two scenes, wearing the most ridiculous and at the same time intriguing giant silver earrings. Another eye-catching bit of retro: a small kitchen appliance which automatically shapes rice for nigiri sushi, because it really takes a lot more time to do it by hand.

I know there is more significant relevance to be found in this film's content (especially as set in this period), but I just can't get excited about focusing on Wall Street corruption. [SMALL SPOILER ALERT] I didn't even care that much about the bad guys getting theirs. That is to say, I didn't feel that sense of vindictive pleasure at Gekko's demise as I felt when the Warden in The Shawshank Redemption opened the Bible only to find the space in which Andy Dufresne had been hiding his rock hammer.

Unrelated note: according to imdb.com, Martin Sheen considers himself a liberal democrat, but opposes abortion and euthanasia rights. If true, his bio is worth reading.

Unrelated note #2: looking up Daryl Hannah's imdb page reminds me how much I cannot get over how weird plastic surgery makes people look. Daryl Hannah should not look like Hannah Montana. I just need her to have a few more wrinkles to be plausible. Whatever procedure older actors get that makes their eyes all squinty (ala Steve Martin in It's Complicated) is quite unsettling.

And since I have opinions about almost everything: I really dislike imdb.com's new format. I am opposed to drastic style changes in familiar/popular websites. I have known what to expect and how to find information quickly on imdb ever since I studied film in college, and now look at it. All the film titles are super far away from their release dates, and the layout is sloppy. Why?