Oliver Stone's WALL STREET

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COMPARISON FILMS

Death of A Salesman (1986) (135 min):
    Death of A Salesman has a few similar concepts to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.  There are, however, distinct differences between the two films.  In both films we see the deterioration of a man.  In Wall Street the depiction of the main character shows the crumbling of character and fall of pride.  The movie Death of A Salesman offers the viewer a different type of decay, the loss of the mind.  A central theme to both movies is the loss of respect for someone each character looked up to along with the realization they are not the infallible giants they seem to be.  For Bud Fox in Wall Street it was the knowledge that Gekko was going to break an agreed-upon deal.  In Death of A Salesman when Biff was a senior in high school he surprised his father (Willy Loman) by coming to his hotel in Boston.  Biff saw that his father was having an affair.  This hurt Biff more than anything and left a lasting scar.  The main difference between these two films was that Bud Fox had a strong relationship with his father, yet there really was not the concept of a family to rely on.  In Death of A Salesman the story focused around a family’s struggle with inadequacy and reality.
    Bud Fox and Biff portray similar characteristics when Fox screams at Gekko at the end, telling him he is a fake and when Biff screams at his father when he sees he is having an affair, calling him a liar.  Gekko and Willy show similar traits when Gekko gives Fox the speech in the Athletic club about being a “player” and you always have to be ready, and when Willy constantly gives Biff the speech about being great.
Director: Volker Schelondorff
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Charles Durning, Kate Reid, Stephen Lang, and John Malkovich

It’s A Wonderful Life (1947) (132 min.):
 
It’s A Wonderful Life sends a reassuring message to the viewer about the overall good nature of society.  This film highlights the life of George Bailey, a man who is contemplating suicide because he feels he has failed trying to help people. Through seeing how everyone would be so much worse off without him, George begins to appreciate his life and everyone who is part of it.  At the end, the entire town comes together to give George the money he needs to keep his loan office open.  This movie sends the message that each person makes a difference in the lives of others.  Also, through the generosity of the entire town at the end, Frank Capra leaves his audience feeling that all people are good-natured and do care about others.  Oliver Stone’s message in Wall Street is entirely different.  Stone shows how everyone is out for himself, regardless of who gets hurt in the process.  The identity of each stockbroker is not important; however, George Bailey’s identity is extremely important.
     Despite the opposing messages, there are several similarities between characters in these movies.  The fathers of George Bailey and Bud Fox have very similar ideals in life.  The talk between George and his father at the dinner table (16:00) is similar to the talk between Bud and his father in the elevator (1:24:00).  Mr. Henry Potter, “the richest and meanest man in the county,” resembles Gordon Gekko, the Wall Street tycoon.  Both men thrive on greed.  Potter’s speech to the board of the Bailey’s Building & Loan Co. (29:00) resembles Gekko’s “greed is good speech” (1:14:00). George Bailey and Bud Fox are similar at the beginning of each story.  Both men start out with great dreams and aspirations.  They want everything the world has to offer and will stop at nothing to get it.  George’s talk with Mary where he explains how he wants to “lasso the moon” (25:00) is comparable to Bud’s talk with Darien when he won’t sleep because he is driven with desire to obtain the best life has to offer (1:19:00). Although Fox and Bailey set out with the same type of goals, Bailey realizes much earlier in the story that money is not the only measure of success.  When Potter offers to help George get rich (1:07:00), George denies the offer.  This action contrasts Bud’s action in the limousine when he agrees to follow Wildman in order to be one of  Gekko’s inside traders (36:00) .
Director: Frank Capra
Starring: Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, Thoman Mitchell, and H.B. Warner

Working Girl (1988)(115 min.):
    Working Girl is about a Wall Street secretary who climbs the ladder of success through hard work and determination.  Tess McGill pretends to be an associate partner of Petty Marsh, a mergers and acquisition firm on Wall Street, after her boss has a skiing accident and is stuck in a hospital outside of the country.  Tess seizes this window of opportunity and takes over an important deal that her boss is trying to set up.  This movie sends a message that if you want something, you have to make it happen for yourself.  Nichols, the director, shows how everyone is out for himself or herself on Wall Street.  Only those who have a killer instinct and are willing to seize opportunities will be successful.  Working Girl leaves the audience with the impression that if someone wants to be successful and works hard enough to obtain this success, he or she will be successful in the end.
    Working Girl shows Wall Street from a female’s perspective.  Several dialogues are very similar to the dialogues in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.  Katherine Parker, Tess’s boss, has the same attitude about success as Gordon Gekko.  Katherine’s discussions with Tess about being a player on Wall Street  (15:00 and 24:00) are similar to Gekko’s talks with Bud Fox (30:14 and 33:17).  Tess has the same desire and determination to be successful as Bud Fox has.  Both will do whatever is necessary in order to move their way to the top.  Tess pushes the limits of fairness when she pretends to be an associate partner in the firm (31:00) and when she crashes Trask’s daughter’s wedding (1:10:00).  Bud tails Wildman (37:49) and pretends to be part of a cleaning service to copy confidential files (56:00) In the end, Tess gets revenge on Katherine (1:41:00) just as Bud gets revenge on Gekko (1:55:57).  Both Working Girl and Wall Street show how no one cares about anyone else on Wall Street.  In order to be successful, sometimes a person must bend, or even break, the rules.  Although the main characters, Tess and Bud, are moving in different directions by the end, they both learn a similar lesson about the way Wall Street works and how to be a successful player on it.
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver, and Alec Baldwin