I’ve been pretty harsh in the past about Ben Stiller’s sourness. But there is one thing I think it’s perfect for: a movie about robbing Bernie Madoff.
I have some reservations here, particularly the plot device of a bunch of pasty white boys hiring a black man to advise them in how to commit felonies, which I thought, even with a twist, was the weakest part of Horrible Bosses. But on the whole, I’m actually more optimistic about this than I thought I would be. There’s an admirable frankness to things like a conversation between two luxury apartment building employees, where one says, “You know what these people are really buying?” and the other responds, “White neighbors?” Or the withering condescension with which the movie treats Alan Alda’s declaration that “I may have my own private island in Belize, but deep down, I’m just an Astoria boy like Josh here,” when he’s really someone who believes that “You people are working stiffs. Clock punchers. Easily replaced.”
Our popular culture spends a lot of time treating the decadence and myopias of the very rich as if they’re admirable, or at worst, an amusing excuse for judgement. There’s something refreshing about a movie that upsets that assumption, and suggests that its characters tear down that false idol rather than aspire to it. That’s much blunter than the class politics of American pop culture normally get, a rebuke to the industry from within the industry itself — whether it’s self-aware or not.