Life//Film / TV
Predictably good, The Wolf of Wall Street captures the debauchery, decadence and destructiveness that Wall Street portrayed at that time. It is fast-paced but long film, so if you are going to view at the cinema make sure you have an empty bladder and if you’re renting on a DVD make sure your remote is handy for the pause button. With the likes of Jonah Hill, Leonardo Di Caprio and Matthew McConaughey to entertain you, stampede your senses and welcome you into their world of corruption and depravity you are in for an exceptional ride.
Martin Scorcese has created a highly glamorised portrayal of Wall Street allowing the audience to act as a voyeur into the life of Jordan Belfort, a crooked broker. Based on Belfort’s memoirs in the 1980’s and 90’s, it follows him through his move to New York City with his first wife, to his first job with Matthew McConaughey and the demise of that company. Finding his luck changing when he joins a group of penny stock brokers, he uses his natural gift of sales to dupe customers out of their hard earned money. There we grab onto Leonardo Di Caprio’s suspender straps and get whisked through his epic evolution from a penniless broker to a millionaire. His demise comes in the form of FBI agents, whose acting is forgettable, where he has to turn upon his own team and go undercover to reduce his own sentence.
Di Caprio finds him in a role that he seems comfortable in, a womaniser, obsessed with money, drugs and power. The fact that he co-produced the film is obvious as he tends to steal all the best lines, yet his commitment to the role is evident in the remaking of a real-life event. The quote “making money is as powerful as mainstreaming adrenaline” sums up the film pretty well and how it makes the characters feel and behave the way they do. Although Leo is the main character leading this film, he isn’t for me the star. McConaughey is in the film for less than 15 minutes; however his impact ripples throughout the film not just by his incredible acting and southern charm but also by the stars behind-the-scene antics. The monumental and trademark banging of the chest and humming that McConaughey shows Leo in their first meal together becomes synonymous throughout the film for power and strength. It is paralleled throughout, with it ending with all of Belfort’s team thumping their chests, humming and chanting creating a great feeling of inclusion, camaraderie and as though they are ‘sticking it to the man’. This epic moment however was not in the script. Hard to believe, but this was actually witnessed by Scorcese behind the scenes with McConaughey doing this before he came onto set. It acted as a way to get him into character and to focus his mind. Scorcese added this at the last minute and it becomes one of the most emotional and iconic moments of the film; rightly so.
Throughout the film we witness and become involved in numerous orgies, affairs, exploitation and illegal acts. You almost leave the cinema feeling as though you should confess something as if you too were there with the characters. As per the majority of Hollywood films you would expect Belfort’s arrogance to dampen having been caught yet his growth into a humble human isn’t the case. Scorcese uses this to create a moralistic dilemma for audiences. There is no narrative comeuppance for Belfort, something that is so common within typical Hollywood plotlines, and so as audiences we are given the sheer gift of disappearing into a world we know is wrong. This escapism gives a good insight into your psyche and how you react to social injustice and 20th century capitalism. The glamorisation of crimes, drugs, sex and ill-parenting may tap into the part of your subconscious that agrees with Jordan’s behaviour. The good reviews and high box office ratings may prove that as humans we like controversy, want the opportunity to dream and be involved in this type of lifestyle portrayed, on the flipside some may feel guilty by being so titillated by these antics. Or, as the Telegraph argues, is Scorcese trusting, as the age rating is 18, that his audiences’ moral compass is in check and so is treating his audience like adults. It allows us to either submerge ourselves in a life that is so unrealistic that we wish it were true, or to sit tall upon our high horse and look down upon the world Scorcese creates. I’ll leave that view up to you which side you take.