Being a professional script consultant sometimes means that you come across scripts that have great potential but that also have inherent problems. Indeed, I’ve written a few screenplays like this myself.
Sometimes these flaws are overlooked, and the film makes it into production with gaping holes in logic, character development or plot. But sometimes, a perfectly realised screenplay can get messed up in the making of the film. Or the writers’ intentions get changed by a clever performance from an actor.
A film that fits into this analogy is Wall Street. The script is brilliant, very clever in that negotiates a complicated subject (share trading) and educates the audience. It’s fast moving and seductive. However, we’re meant to sympathise with the Charlie Sheen character Bud Fox. We’re not meant to admire Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko at all.
When the film was released Gordon Gekko became a hero to a generation of traders and wannabe business types. Nobody much remembered the Charlie Sheen character and his dollar book dilemma. Sheen was a softy, easily seduced and over powered by Gekko. And it was Gekko who seduced us – because of this the plot became a little redundant.
So the film set out to condemn Gekko, but actually it made him a hero and won Michael Douglas an Oscar.
Looking back at this film, would we change anything? I’d say that Sheen’s character could be stronger; he seems too wet behind the ears and is in no way a match for Gekko. The film is great, but could have been better with two stronger, tougher characters going toe to toe – the temptation should have been examined more, the risks and rewards needed to be greater.
At the moment (while it’s a classic of its time) the film is a little too simplistic while doing a lot of other things very right.
It’s a moral tale in the end, and the battle needs to be bigger than it is. Still, this is a great film and deserves repeated viewings, despite any flaws.
So, 23 films to go…
Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script consultant, script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.