Scorsese’s latest picture is a three hour drug-fuelled, sex-driven marathon, with Leonardo Dicaprio taking the helm as a modern day Caligula. With one of his best films since the likes of Goodfellas and The Aviator, Scorsese gives us unadulterated access to the world of avarice, lust and amorality: Wall Street in the 90’s.
Based on the real life antics of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio), a stock broker, who manages to scam clients into buying stock to make millions a week for his own company Stratton Oakmont. With the likes of Danny Porush (Jonah Hill), Belfort’s right hand man, and Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) Belfort’s wife, the supporting cast itself is worth the fee of admission. The often dark, comedic wittiness between Dicaprio and Hill, reminiscent of some of Robert De Niro’s and Joe Pesci’s most memorable scenes in Raging Bull and Goodfellas, captures the enticing nature of the debauchery these men led their lives with.
Though there are no moral judgements passed. There are no real consequences and comeuppance for these characters, which has led to outcries in America. Contrary to these claims of Scorsese glamorising this world, more likely it is that we are left to bring judgement to these characters as adults. We are not told to condemn or do anything except watch Belfort’s antics through his own eyes and judge for ourselves.
With the Wolf of Wall Street getting five Oscar nominations, and with other heavyweight contenders this year such as the powerful 12 Years a Slave, or the less masterly of them, American Hustle, there is no chance that the film will do a clean sweep. The best hope lying with Dicaprio is his best actor nomination. More importantly, as most of Scorsese’s films have attempted, this film is like a mirror being held at our society right now, which is why there have been so many damning critiques about its amorality and debauchery. We all accept that this level debauchery happens daily, but find it hard to accept it when shown to us on a screen.
But, as is the case, you’re left in awe and feel guilty for it. After the economic downpour we still suffer from, why are we left with this mixture in our mouths? Or as we leave the cinema, or throughout the film when you’re titillated, and at times go along with the ‘bad’ man, why does that happen? Maybe what best describes this is from one of the many monologues Dicaprio recites in the movie: “There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and I choose rich every f*****g time. At least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I can show up in the back of a stretch limousine, wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit and a twenty-thousand-dollar gold watch! And, believe me, arriving in style makes your problems a helluva lot easier to deal with.” Maybe this is the message to be left with, all of us have that side to us, but it’s the Jordan Belfort’s and Danny Porush’s who can keep on pushing against restraint and trust. And many of us, with the right circumstances and changes, could potentially do the same and pick the rich life, the so-called good life.
By Shantok Jetha