For Reel

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
January 17, 2014, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Martin Scorsese
4 Stars
The Wolf of Wall StreetA major topic of conversation regarding The Wolf of Wall Street has been asking whether it condemns or celebrates the depravity it portrays–it seems just as likely that an audience member might respond to the excess with a certain envy as much as they would be disgusted by the immorality. Such contradictions are actually commonplace in Hollywood, however, and the give-and-take that happens in the ideological discourses of certain films is often the most honest approach to the issues at hand. Consider the discussion regarding torture in Zero Dark Thirty, which became a Rorschach test for audience members–it didn’t so much clarify its political beliefs as participate in the conversation from both sides. One can say that this approach to cinema is cynical in its pandering to every potential audience, but in the hands of a talented filmmaker such contradictions are necessary to the story they are telling. The debauchery in The Wolf of Wall Street is undoubtedly excessive and, in its misogyny, absolutely tasteless, but Martin Scorsese aspires to show the seduction of such sins, so much so that Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) undoing ultimately seems to be the most minor of setbacks. It is unclear who exactly the sucker is–Belfort may be despicable, but by the end his own sort of nihilism seems to be the only appropriate response to a world driven by greed. Belfort and the film’s audience essentially want the same thing, only Belfort is just the kind of sleazebag to dreg his desires up from the pits of depravity to participate in them himself. The Wolf of Wall Street’s biggest risk is making the viewer occasionally admire him for it.

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