Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – Movie Review

Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps – Movie Review

Review by Stacey Tuttle

There is so much to discuss in the second installment of Wall Street I am overwhelmed trying to figure out where to begin and what to cover.  Topics such as: Can greed be good?, Are bailouts really about making a statement to the world?, What do we think about the “ninja generation”—no income, no job, no assets?,  Is the mother of all evil speculation as Wall Street suggests?, What’s your number—that number you need to walk away from it all?, and What do we think about convicts whose willingness to tell their story makes them a hero, or at least an instant celebrity?  But I think, all said and done, what really intrigues me most is the imagery of the bubble that pervades the movie. 

The bubble.  I found myself throughout the movie wondering why the bubble?  What’s the deal with bubbles?  At one point they say that, “relationships are like bubbles.  They’re fragile.”  While that does, I believe, give a clue, I certainly don’t think it answers why the writers/directors chose bubbles to pervade the imagery from start to finish of a movie about financial corruption and the American economy.  A few other statements shed some light:  “Evolution, the Cambrian explosion.  Can’t explain how it happened, except that it happened.”  “Bubbles are evolutionary.”  We also have the image of children playing with, and even making bubbles.  And one more thing which I think adds significance to our understanding of the bubbles is that the movie talks about three assets:  Time, Relationships and Money.   

So how does it all fit together?  Let’s start with the three assets.  Time.  Relationships.  Money.  They said that relationships, like bubbles, are fragile.  And certainly, the movie does show the fragility of relationships between father and daughter, between boss and employee, between friends and colleagues, between lovers…   But relationships are not the only fragile one of the assets in the movie.  I would suggest that all three assets, like bubbles, are shown to be quite fragile.  Money is fairly obvious.  Staid, solid institutions are suddenly at risk.  And savvy business men with fortunes to show for it suddenly face staggering losses just as other, young entrepreneurs suddenly find their fortunes.  Time may not be quite so obvious as a fragile entity.  After all, time is certain.  It plods onward without regard for whom it leaves behind.  But what isn’t certain is that we will have time—time with others, time to right wrongs, etc.  A long prison sentence takes time away from a father and his family.  A suicide causes a man to lose time with his mentor and friend, etc.

But I think the meaning of the bubbles goes beyond their basic fragile nature.  Bubbles are something children play with.  It’s not something a child understands, but it is something children are consistently fascinated with.  The money market, Wall Street, is a lot like a bubble for the financial gurus.  They understand the money bubble far less than they may think they do, but they are fascinated with it.  And, at least for many, it is a game, a mere play toy. 

The movie proposes that the earth was formed by the Cambrian explosion.  Some sort of concoction of oozing substances bubbled up into life.  No one knows how, they just know that it did.  Bubbles forming, creating something, rising into the air, exploding and reforming.  Isn’t that descriptive of the financial “geniuses” in the movie?  Out of nowhere a new protégé arises in power, wealth and money-making savvy.  He rises and rises, no one really knows how or where from, and then with equal mystery, he (and or his career) explodes into ruin and falls from grace.  But another soon arises in his place. 

Interestingly enough, a bubble is filled with air.  It’s a collection of nothingness, bound together with a shiny, fragile skin.   Isn’t this really what the love of money is?  We are fascinated with, in love with, these shiny bubbles called money, fame and success.  We chase them around like children, eager to catch them, to hold them.  But the moment we grasp it, it explodes into what it truly is – nothingness.

Gordon Gekko, the Wall Street cautionary tale, tells his new protégé, the young Jake Moore, “Marry.  Have kids.  Spend as much time as you can because then they’ll all be gone.  Everything changes.”  He warns his future son-in-law of the dangers of chasing the empty bubble.  It’s true, time and relationships are also fragile.  But relationships are more than bubbles.  They are not empty air.  Relationships are a worthy pursuit, and they require time to invest in them. 

This really isn’t new advice.  Ecclesiastes says multiple times that everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  The author, Solomon, might as well have said, “Everything is as meaningless as a shiny, empty bubble.”  What was the conclusion the author came to?  Similar to Gekko, Solomon says to “enjoy life with your wife, whom you love”[1] and to work hard while you are able, and most importantly, “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”[2] 

It’s been said that the three most important decisions you will make in your life are:  1.  Who’s your Master?  2.  Who’s your mate?  3.  What’s your mission?  The first question is the most important.  You have to decide who your master is going to be.  Is it going to be money?  If so, you have an empty bubble as your master.  Frankly, all choices but one leave you with an empty bubble.  The only Master worthy to be served is the King of Kings.  Once you have him as your Master, the other questions, while still of great importance, are much easier to answer.  You choose your mate and your mission based on who/what will best help you serve your Master—who/what will help you “fear God and keep his commandments.”  It is only then that you will find that life is a real, solid, eternal thing laden with meaning and purpose.  It is only then that you graduate from playing with bubbles to things of significance.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Of the three assets, time, relationships and money, which do you wish you had more of (choose the most pressing)?
  • Do you feel that you have spent your time playing with bubbles—empty, meaningless, fragile pursuits?
  • Gekko said that money is not the prime asset in life, time is.  Why is that?
  • If relationships are a more important asset than money, then which relationships are the most key in your life?
  • How have you answered the three most important decisions in your life:  1. Who’s your Master?  2.  Who’s your mate?  3.  What’s your mission? 
  • How do you think the decision of Master has effected the other decisions in your life?


[1] Ecclesiastes 9:9

[2] Ecclesiastes 12:13