The Wolf of Wall Street – Scorsese supplies what we secretly demand. (Film Review)
A singular moment upon which The Wolf of Wall Street stands, exists when Jordon Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), sitting in a booth at a diner guru-like, before his slack-bellied, poorly educated males desperately searching for their masculinity, asks his charges to sell him the pen he holds in his hand. Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), a successful small time drug dealer takes the pen from his hand and asks him to give him his autograph. When Jordon says he doesn’t have a pen, Brad tosses the pen back at him and says “Supply and demand.” A remake of this moment exists at the end of the film, when a group of New Zealanders, gathered at a “how to get rich” seminar are asked a similar question. At that moment, the camera pans up and over an audience of fifty or so in the room in a slowly sweeping shot that looks distressingly like a mirror.
Supply and demand is Scorsese’s point in The Wolf of Wall Street, and one gets the distinct feeling he’s pissed off at us, by the proximity, time-wise of the film to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Wolf of Walls Street is a film about a man who couldn’t have ripped off the countless people he fooled, if they didn’t want to get rich quickly. That is not to condemn the victim by any means, rather Scorsese want’s to include the victim in the crimes as they are relayed in the film. I have no idea how close to the true the film version of the story of Jordan Belfort is, and I strongly doubt the book, for which Leonardo DiCaprio paid Belfort one million dollars, is close to whatever the truth is anyway, Scorsese’s point, made repeatedly throughout the film to the point of saturation is that finger-pointing, when it comes to greed, is a great hypocrisy in a capitalist democracy. Filming started in August 8 2012, not even 12 months after the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement, so it is impossible to separate the politics from the film. Seen in this context, and knowing that the film screenings near Wall Street itself are packed with people who cheer for the Belfort character at moments such as when he re-ignites his cocaine addiction which leads to the dangerous abuse of his small child, one is left with the obvious summation that Scorsese wants to piss off the 99%.
However, it is not only the 99% who come out of The Wolf of Wall Street looking like fools. Scorsese uses his usual homo-erotic machismo to bond his male protagonists, but he does so in a context that makes the masters of the universe look like a pack of emeralds on an Amway pyramid fighting to be diamonds. Unlike Goodfellas, which he also references incessantly in the film to signpost criminal activity, Scorsese’s painting is of an unnatractive world. Scorsese always said Goodfellas was to show the ugly side of the gangster life, but all it really did was encourage a generation of teen boys to shoplift bubblegum and call themselves wise guys. The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t have the same lustre. The group of shark stock brokers are the poor man’s rich and they commit the true crime of Wall Street by having bad taste. As Jordan’s FBI tail Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) tells him, Jordan is unique in the stockbroker world, because he didn’t come from old money. Jordan’s motley crew drive flashy Lamborghini Countach’s, put hot tub’s on the top deck of yachts, drink martini’s from unchilled glasses and marry mindless trophy wives. Their whores are often street-walkers and they all have multiple venereal diseases. Where the Wise Guys of Goodfellas had good taste in food, respect for family and other petty sophistications, the mindless excess of Jordan Belfort is a manic hysteria based in Freudian subconscious mummy and daddy issues.
Leonardo De Caprio puts in a fine performance as Jordan Belfort, surprisingly witty and with a great sense of comic timing. A standout scene sees him trying to negotiate a set of brick stairs, heavily under the influence of ludes, mimicking the actions of his toddler daughter. He’s much funnier than expected, and the comic surprise sets off the overindulgence of the more dramatic scenes. When trying to rev his people into a frenzy only an Amway sales conference or a Tony Robbins fire walk could rival, DiCaprio forces so much emotion into the forefront of his skull, he looks as though his brains will burst. It’s a typical performance from a Scorsese male lead who are usually burdened with the difficult task of authenticating the empty gestures of machismo. It’s hard to be blokey without a gun, a pair of boxing gloves or a football. He shines when he’s more quiet, and funny, when he is rattling off Terence Winters excellent lines. Another standout, as usual, is Jonah Hill who plays a genuinely creepy stock broker with some of the best lines in the film.
Twenty-four hours after Wall Street, I’m less moved than I was twelve hours after, and generally much of the film is forgettable which is a shame given its three hours long, but I remember having a good time and I remember laughing a lot. If you are sensitive about the Occupy Wall Street issues, I strongly suggest you do not see The Wolf Of Wall Street, but if you’re Scorsese jaded and he doesn’t bug you that much with his repetitious slow mo’s, his blonde leads introduced in white, his long tracking shots (he loves them about as much as Peter Jackson loves a helicopter shot) and his barley subverted Catholicism, then go and have a good time. The Wolf of Wall Street is a Scorsese film and that’s really the best recommendation and warning I can give.