The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Saturday, January 11, 2014
Photo Credit: Wolf of Wall Street / Paramount Pictures
After seeing The Wolf of Wall Street my mind remains scattered. I knew I was in for a wild ride. In fact, that's what I told everyone in my circles; I was going to see it purely for how crazy it was supposed to be. Little did I expect that it was more drugs, more money, more boobs, more sex, more ridiculousness than anything I had anticipated.

Set in the 1980s and based off one of many autobiographies by Jordon Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the main character diving knee deep in cocaine, quaaludes, and sex into the world of wall street.

The Wolf of Wall Street revolves around the dirty behavior of Belfort, but it also plays a dirty trick in its first twenty minutes. Despite the wild antics of the main character, director Martin Scorcese, or even more so the exhausting and unforgettable performance by Leonardo DiCaprio (or the scriptwriter Terence Winters) imposes us with sympathy for Belfort. At the beginning, he first enters Wall Street and be right-hand man to Mark Hannah (Matthew McConaughey), a big shot who sounds off that it's more advantageous to take money from your clients and put it into your own pocket. We see the twinkle in Belfort's eyes, and the innocence as he chooses not doing cocaine on the table and water over getting trashed with interval rounds of margaritas. And, then he's hooked almost immediately to the barbarian addition of "the more" and the everything.

After a crash on Wall Street, Belfort begins his own firm with the help of several sidekicks including Donnie Azmoff (Jonah Hill). A lion on the prowl is the motif for his advertisements. His firm really does represent the wild kingdom of humans preying on dollars. A floor of brokers filled with hundreds men and women howling and grunting offering clients to claim the ultimate dollar is a repeated scene throughout the film. Their tactics of ripping money out of anyone's wallets, shamelessly leaving every man behind follows Belfort's motivational advice, “Don’t hang up until the customer dies or buys." People behaving like animals to make more, more, more. They are the Joneses and are competing against other JJoneses who put their millions dollar salary, mansions, and boats to internal shame. And this is just during work hours.

The film is far from raunchy or gratuitous for raunchy or gratuitous sake (though this could be argued on many counts). It does raise a conversation that has run through centuries of natural human behavior over power and greed. By films end, Scorcese successfully turns the mirror on ourselves and our view of watching this guy and all of his depravity. We cringe at their orgies. We are in shock over their drug induced manias of bringing in marching bands, chimpanzees, strippers, and throwing little people onto dartboards for cash. We become immersed into the hilarity and degeneracy. It makes a point that from normal day Joes to Wall Street greed exists but it's just to an extension of how much. The Wolf of Wall Street goes to the longest most depraved extent imaginable.

DiCaprio noted that the reason he was so motivated to finance the rights of the book for a film adaptation was because of how openly candid Belfort was. He noted that the novel was "a cautionary tale", yet the film nor the book just does not serve as an advisory warning. Openly candid is one thing. A man boasting about his accomplishments and focus on pulling the wool over peoples' eyes with pride and making more than enough money to continue is a whole other ball game. The protagonist inevitably becomes, or always was, the monster. As such, Director Martin Scorceses' film is three hours of drugs and sex. Depravity, debauchery, appalling, shocking, obnoxious, excessive, and even stupid - glorious amounts of drug induced stupidity and addiction to excess.

DiCaprio is often regarded online recent years as being mocked or haunted by his lack of Academy nominations and or wins. Equally so, Jonah Hill as DiCaprio's sidekick are performances not to remember but to never be forgotten. This is the most loose and wild we have ever seen perhaps any actor reach. Immersed in drug-raging tantrums, sickening arrogance, ridiculous ambitions, and blinded obsession, it's no wonder young men temporarily retreated from filmmaking to grapple with a world of decency again.

Since the U.S. and even world economy hasn't recovered from its fatal Wall Street buy-out in 2008, I understand why some audiences denounce the film. There are a plethora of arguments that this movie incites a positive spin on consumerism, materialism, and the thieves of Wall Street. I won't disagree that this movie has its faults. The running time as long as it is could be too long in order convey its message. Jordan Belfort himself makes a cameo, even though Scorcese and DiCaprio both have said this film reaps no benefits for the guy. It has raised criticism over its misogynist scenes (in which I defer to a ladys defense).

To say that these 180 minutes condones greed, I really do a double-take. At what point does this film portray these people's lives who exist with no sense of consequence appealing? The first time they do drugs? The fiftieth time? The first time they treat women like objects or the 100th time? The millionth time they've convinced someone to invest in a penny stock company and putting that money in their own pockets? There is almost nothing enticing for you as a human being to repeat anything these characters do. Except if you are European bankers, the 1%, and even Belfort himself (who is now using DiCaprio in his motivational speaking videos). Things haven't really changed much...but I know now I am so sick at the sight of money.

Rating: ★
Have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street? What did you think?

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