By Erica Zaragoza
Affluence is the malignant disease that quietly metastasizes into an overwhelming desire to need, want, got to have more. Money, power, and greed are all simple enough concepts that most people are able to control, maintain, and incorporate into their daily lives. However, when money, power, and greed envelop the soul of the man, chaos is bound to ensue.
The opening scene of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps gives us a glimpse into the world of Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, whose life was turned upside down when he was incarcerated. Exposed is the world he left, the technological advancements he missed, but also, all the things that haven’t changed, including most particularly his estrangement from his only daughter. Leaving jail, Gekko witnesses a father being welcomed home by his small children, which quickly foreshadows the turbulent family life that will unfold throughout the story; the resentment, the anger, and the lack of trust. Winnie Gekko, played by Carey Mulligan the devastated daughter, has moved on from her father’s indiscretions and sought out a life that does not include any ties to her Gekko roots. She does so because she believes that the activities that precipitated her father’s arrest were the root cause of her brother’s suicide, and thus have wedged a serious divide within the family.
Winnie finds solace in the new life she establishes with her boyfriend Jacob. Ironically, Jacob, played by Shia Lebouf, is a wall-street type who also has a complicated relationship with money. As seen in the monetizing of ideas, the cashing in on promises and the granting fraudulent bonuses, it is extremely apparent that money is the key component dictating the relationships that exist.
As the story unfolds, Jacob, the wall-street prodigy, becomes an embattled servant to the dollar. He constantly tries to remain above its influence, and to distance himself from the archetype Winnie despises. He falls short of the mark when he decides to trust his future father-in-law after his mentor Louis Zabel commits suicide. Zabel’s suicide culminates amidst growing pressure from the financial sector for his company to declare bankruptcy. Gekko understands the dealings of Wall Street and thus a relationship between Jake and Gordon emerges. Jake goes behind Winnie’s back and forges a relationship with Gordon that eventually divides Winnie and Jake, and shows the true colors of Gordon Gekko, as well as that deception and greed always die hard.
The backdrop to the Gekko family dynamic is the financial crisis that ensued when the housing market collapsed.
Undervalued — overvalued. The recurring theme of estimations gone awry creates a dichotomy between those who have confidence in the market and those who have lost it. Louis Zabel’s suicide epitomizes those who lost confidence. Zabel’s suicide also served as the catalyst for Jacob’s unnerving obsession with attaining power and avenging the death of his mentor.
The deliberations and negotiations of mistakes made by Wall Street serve as the cornerstone of financial impediments to Main Street. Gordon Gekko is keenly aware of the intricacies of the market and of greed, and is a master of manipulation. He uses his this power to swindle Winnie’s money from her.
When Gordon steals from Winnie, it becomes apparent just how greedy he really is. Jake proceeds to find Gordon to tell him the news that he will have a grandson, and that because of the trust he placed in Gordon, Winnie wants nothing to do with him. Gekko’s cold demeanor and compromised moral compass begin to thaw and become rehabilitated at the sight of the ultrasound. Eventually, Gekko returns to congratulate Winnie and return the money in the form of a trust account for the baby. This culminates in the reunion of Jake and Winnie, and the beginning of a renaissance for the Gekko family.