“The camera lies all the time; lies 24 times a second,” director Brian De Palma famously said. We rarely go to the theatre for documentaries. Still, one of the most popular features on the Internet Movie Database is their “goofs” section — a list of inaccuracies, anachronisms, and cameramen caught in mirror reflections.
Some are legitimate grievances, some are politicized and turned into pay-per-click think pieces, but all are missing De Palma’s point. We may not go for pure, unfiltered reality, but sometimes it’s helpful when filmmakers pay more than lip service to it. Here are the most inaccurate movies that portray the business world.
A Good Year: The Laziest Bond Trader
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe appeared to be a perfect combination for Gladiator; Crowe’s solemn, brooding turn accompanied Scott’s gloomy visuals perfectly. In their follow-up, Crowe is a failed bond trader who inherits a winery. Early on, we see a scene of Crowe’s “bond trading”. After declaring it was “Greedy Bastard Day,” Crowe initiates an unethical trading scheme to short companies.
Often, the problem is that movies use business as shorthand to lazily move things forward. The issue is that a single firm’s actions don’t actually dictate the market, and the regulators in place would also be a tremendous obstacle. In the movie world, it’s just Crowe being evil, but it’s the kind of lazy error that people get worked-up over.
The Wolf of Wall Street: What Crimes Happened?
The Wolf of Wall Street should be the last film to be relied on for any real insights into the business world. Though it follows its source material quite closely, its source is Jordan Belfort — a felon found guilty of fraud and stock market manipulation. Even the excess probably wasn’t as fun as Leonardo DiCaprio made it look to a certain subset of men.
Martin Scorsese takes Belfort at his word, but that doesn’t mean audiences were meant to. Some of the more outlandish stunts and office pranks — like throwing a midget into a dartboard — may or may not have happened in reality. The methamphetamine abuse was never as ugly as the financial crimes conducted by Belfort anyway, which doesn’t take much explaining.
Antitrust/The Social Network: Your Start-Up is Destined For Great Success
Start-ups are hot commodities for television and film since the first internet bubble. Films like Antitrust clumsily warned of the perils of a Bill Gates-type, played by Tim Robbins, who recruits Ryan Phillippe to work at his privately secured incubator. Nine years later, The Social Network went from paranoid conspiracy claptrap to sincere concerns over just who was running these billion-dollar industries. The first movie flopped miserably; the second won Oscars. Both operate on the idea that if you’re working in a garage or your dorm room on a major start-up, it’s bound to take off.
We probably don’t need to tell you the odds of a start-up actually reaching Facebook’s seemingly instantaneous levels of success, which in reality requires years of hard work developing and tweaking a product. Nor should cinema.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer