It takes a lot to make me feel like a prude but The Wolf of Wall Street can certainly be construed as a lot.
It begins as all good films do. A sunny day, a sleek white convertible hurtling down the highway. DiCaprio behind the wheel looking smug and suave. The front seat passenger; a bleach blonde head, face down over his lap, oscillating in a most amorous manner. And DiCaprio’s smooth narrative voice-over; reminiscent of a 90s US high school comedy. Oh bloody fantastic, I thought, another insincere, materialistic piece of Hollywood farce. I knew I should have chosen something intellectually challenging… possibly Eastern European with sub-titles. But this film’s depth lies in its superficiality; the unapologetic, hyperbolic depiction of consumer culture and capitalism.
Like the poor bloke who finds himself on the wrong side of Leo and his cronies, The Wolf of Wall Street grabbed, throttled and smacked me round the face. The worst thing… I rather enjoyed it. And such is the theme throughout; humiliation, degeneration and a hankering for more. DiCaprio’s depiction of Jordan Belfort; a middle class, jewel eyed, twenty-something from Queens with a heart full of hope and an American dream, turned drug addled, sex crazed, millionaire-mogul, is utterly convincing while completely ridiculous, verging on the absurd. Director – Scorsese tears capitalist, consumer culture apart at the seams and reworks it to reveal the superficiality, stupidity and the transitory nature of such a perfunctory existence; based on power, play and pure aesthetic. But this egotistical glorification of vilification seems a little too self-satisfied to be deemed entirely ironic.
The portrayal of the eager young stockbrokers as greedy apes demanding more, more, more, lapping it up, then sticking out their empty palms expectantly anticipating that little bit extra, was abhorrent and astounding. DiCaprio; the sadistic circus master, whose hysteria slowly seeps through the small cracks in his otherwise immaculate exterior, until it engulfs him like the huge tidal wave which his yacht (complete with heli-pad) is confronted by when attempting to sail to Monaco, is disconcerting yet utterly fascinating.
Scorsese’s overt sexualisation and categorization of female roles; so that they become little more than caricature, reveals an interesting perspective on a woman’s place in Wall Street. He brazenly presents prostitution, promiscuity and pure objectification and unashamedly displays women as little more than play things; readily bought and easily disregarded. The single female stockbroker made her demeaning début as Leo awards her $10,000 to shave her head (obviously so long as she uses said money to fund breast enhancement) in front of a room filled with hideously horny men. Just as marching band, complete with hoard of bare breasted prostitutes swarm in to (literally) consummate this scene of chauvinistic debauchery.
The audacious, remorseless interpretation of the dimension of addiction to drugs, sex, money and power saw that, for me, the past 180 minutes flashed by in a matter of seconds and now, sat in my dingy little room, I am left questioning my own sanity, attempting to sieve through the details and determine whether what I just witnessed was real or some strange, sick expression of my inner psyche. Scorsese’s abrasive illustration of animalistic, incestuous immorality, self-fulfilment and fornication is turbulent, troubling and utterly scintillating.
If you’re into outrageously gaudy, overtly sexualized and superficial representations of something akin to the truth (who isn’t) then by all means watch The Wolf of Wall Street. Just please, please do not go with your parents.