Movies and TV shows long perpetuated the myth that the American dream means earning vast wealth. Tower Heist and 2 Broke Girls suggest that may be changing.
Hollywood's responded to the recession by making movies about the people who conduct mass layoffs and the people who rebuild their lives after them, bankers who go to hell for foreclosing on gypsies, and fantasies of vengeance against Bernie Madoff. And in recent months, a movie and a television show have challenged one of Hollywood's own persistent economic myths: the idea that the American dream means achieving extreme wealth, rather than economic security.
Tower Heist—which opened this weekend and stars Ben Stiller as Josh Kovacs, a luxury apartment building manager and Alan Alda as a Madoff-like Ponzi schemer Arthur Shaw—is, as the title suggests, a heist flick. But while the action sequences are risible (if realistically queasy), the movie is at times an acid comedy about how difficult it is to resist the allure of wealth.
At the beginning of the movie, Josh tells himself that his relationship with his richest client is professional, but for the first half of the movie, he's clearly deluded. He and Shaw play chess over breakfast, and Josh listens to an interminable radio show about Bouchon cheese and killing your own Thanksgiving turkeys so he can impress Shaw with suggestions for food and wine pairings. When it's revealed that Shaw ripped off the pensions of the people who have made his life comfortable for years, it turns out it was Josh who fell for the promise of exorbitant returns on their investment. It isn't really enough for him to make other people's lives free of ordinary concerns: Josh wouldn't mind some of that comfort for himself, and in pursuing it, he's denied himself and his friends even the prospect of a modest but dignified retirement.