Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Wolf Of Wall Street [2014]

Oh Wolfy, Wolfy, Wolfy. What to say about The Wolf Of Wall Street...

Well, no surprises when I say I enjoyed the movie, though it seemed a little long. As with my cinema experience watching The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, I did reach a point where I was visually rooting around for the remote to pause and run off for 'pee-pee'. But of course no such luck. And this is a fairly regularly raised criticism of this and other movies pushing the 3 hour mark; it is draining and does feel like a challenge to both comfort and concentration. However, I got through it and have been awaiting my medal.

As for the content, starting with the positives: Jonah Hill is great, developing his craft from just being goofy-funny to a slightly more mature-funny, though it has to be said, a long way from the vast repertoire of his co-star Dicaprio. It is clear Jonah Hill is moving things forward, trimmed down, sharpened up, a little more understated and now 'in' with some Hollywood heavyweights. Dicaprio is, and probably always will be, one of my favourite actors and there is never really a movie he features in that I don't enjoy (though I am yet to get around to watching Critters 3). Even in a role playing a man so incredibly immoral and impossible to like, the Leo-factor managed to bring something mildly endearing, or at least tolerable, to proceedings. How can this be, you ask? On reflection, it is entirely down to it being Leonardo Dicaprio, someone so famous and so far removed from the role (we hope) that you buy both sides of his adaptation. On the one hand I believed that Leo was Jordan Belfort, whilst on the other hand I knew it was just Leo 'pretending' (acting) and probably having a great time doing so.

I felt the film was visually quite impressive (particularly liked the scene outside a New York hotel where Jordan and his first wife come to blows over his adultery) and I was glued to the styling and wardrobe, something I consistently enjoy with TV and cinema.

What I did not enjoy, aside from the lengthy duration, was firstly watching alongside my girlfriend, whom I knew from the opening 5 minutes was not enjoying the on screen debauchery. I think Scorsese officially lost her at 'blowing coke up a hooker's ass'. I think he lost most women at that point. Though for many of the male audience members, this scene echoed with the 'clunk-click' of seat belts being fastened for a much anticipated joy-ride.

As someone who wrestles with their relationship with 'money', The Wolf Of Wall Street was very difficult to relate to. I can appreciate there are a great many people in society for whom striving to increase ones wealth, power and influence is of foremost priority. Money brings many benefits to life. A lot of benefits were highlighted or at least documented by this experienced cast. Dicaprio himself, discusses the nature of this project as shedding light on the wrong-doings and misguided decisions made by high powered, finance based suit sporters and the knock on affect this has on the wider society. Sadly for the wider society, they don't feature (save for one occasion in a penny-stocks sale. But even then, it is just a voice on the other end of the phone). Their lack of presence keeps the focus solidly on the crooks and swindlers, adding to the overall sense of loathing towards a group of detestable people.

This film does little for women. It is sexist, misogynistic and largely deals with females as commodities and service providers in much the same way that stocks and shares are treated. What we have before us is a group of men given the opportunity to indulge a fantasy lifestyle, unreal and unattainable to most of us. Rather than being totally entertained or having some kind of primal urges stimulated, a sense of depression took hold. Perhaps it is a reflection on myself and the time of life I have reached, but I felt sorry for the objectified and their need to partake to better their situation; an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness towards the main protagonists and their fruitless pursuit of material gain and misguided ideas of the meaning of existence; and the inevitable demise of everyone sucked into their world, from lowly employees to blind-sided clients. Really there were no winners (perhaps only bi-winners? A Charlie Sheen viral, auto-tune reference).

I left the cinema entertained and deflated. Casting the real Jordan Belfort at the end, introducing himself  (the Dicaprio version) at a sales conference post arrest and conviction, left a bitter taste. Any evidence of redemption lost in what looked to be another profitable move by someone who had just told their tale very openly and honestly. What is missed here is that sense of redemption. The candour translates as remorseless and possibly even a bit boastful. Naturally there are those out there that will see these 3 hours as a benchmark.

In all honesty, it was thoroughly entertaining. I will probably make this a Blu-Ray purchase when it is released. I will watch it again. There are details about this film that don't make it quite one of Scorsese-Dicaprio's best collaborations but in an awards season with such strong competition, perhaps it also suffers from being held up against movies more poignant and emotive. If you are a man working in banking/finance and below the age of 35, my guess is you will love it.


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