Some entertainment scribes are giddy that two new films echo themes from the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"In Time" depicts a future version of America where the rich can pay to extend their lives indefinitely while the poor live paycheck to paycheck. And "Tower Heist," hitting theaters Nov. 4, tells of a gang of hotel employees who try to steal money from a conniving businessman.
Movies can take years between the first pitch meeting to the finished product, so it's a minor miracle when any film captures the current zeitgeist.
What the aforementioned films actually have in common with OWS, though, is that both reflect the incoherency - and violence
- of the fledgling movement.
"In Time's" central conceit does mirror OWS's class warfare mode in remarkable fashion, but the clunky plot can't adequately explain why the rich are so darn wicked. Has capitalism been compromised to the point where upward mobility is no longer an option? How exactly are the rich stealing from the poor, as the film's tin-eared dialogue keeps reminding us?
The story suggests the rich keep raising prices on products to keep the poor in economic shackles. In one scene, the price of coffee has just gone up - again - a sign of those nasty coffee barons keeping the little man down. But if the price of coffee is too high, people can opt to brew their own or find a shop where the prices aren't so ghastly. That's how our economic model works.
"Tower Heist's" biggest headline association game is actually a bit musty. The film tracks the precipitous fall of a Bernie Madoff-style schemer (Alan Alda) accused of defrauding the people who work in his hotel building of their pensions. But there's plenty of simmering class resentment to go around.
Ben Stiller, cast as the hotel manager trying to protect his fellow employees from being swindled, demolishes the Madoff character's car in one supposedly cathartic moment. It's the kind of blind rage that serves his character poorly and does little to save the pensions he's so eager to protect.
Later, Stiller's character hires a professional thief (Eddie Murphy) to coach his tower heisting gang on the fine art of the steal. Needless to say comic violence ensues.
"In Time" offers an immature rant against the rich, but "Tower Heist" is far more nuanced. Alda's character isn't a prototypical snake, and it's clear that he's the rich villain in the cross-hairs, not the entire upper class.
Neither film can soberly address why capitalism isn't the answer. In that respect it's very much in line with the modern OWS protests.