(Continuing our look at last year’s best movies, here’s Kevin with “The Wolf of Wall Street”)
I walked out of the theater attempting to understand everything I just saw. The drugs, the booze, the boobs, the money. All of which are concepts that I understand, of course, but the mere abundance was extremely overwhelming. What was the point? Why did I watch this film? Was this a story that needed to be told?
Whatever the reasons, The Wolf of Wall Street managed to spark debate, ridicule and adoration. Take the jump and follow me as I attempt to wrap my head around the failures and successes of the film.
Warning: This review is filled with SPOILERS.
When people ask me whether I enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, I hesitate to answer. Of course I enjoyed it. It had one of my favorite actors at the peak of his career throwing everything he had in his role. And I mean everything. Leonardo DiCaprio left nothing on the table. Plus it had a very entertaining performance from a comedic actor (Jonah Hill) that I enjoy. On top of that all it was directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese. This movie could do no wrong in my opinion.
Only, I wasn’t convinced that this movie needed to exist in the first place. The perceived lack of morals, the over-the-top amount of partying, the foul language, and the seemingly lack of consequences. Was it all necessary? Did the characters learn anything? Most importantly did the audience learn anything?
It is easy to watch the movie and respond with a, ‘No, Jordan Belfort (played by Leo) did not learn anything’ and ‘No, he did not teach anything.’ The movie can be easily perceived as, “young crook hits it big and has zero consequences living the life you could only dream about”. But it isn’t that simple. And that is the true beauty of this film.
Truly great works of art (film or otherwise) push the audience to question. Great art can only be appreciated if the audience uses their mind to think about what the art is attempting to say. Too often in our modern world (as well as in the past, I am sure) do we attempt to take the short cut in trying to understand the world around us. It is easy in this world to tweet a quick review about a movie or to post a brief article that will catch an audience’s attention with its headline but not provide any real substance.
That is why The Wolf of Wall Street has been run through the ringer by the media and average movie audiences. People are used to formulas when it comes to the movies they watch. They want the good guys to win and the bad guys to lose. They want characters to transform through an arc and learn from their past mistakes. They want consequences and they want to easily understand everything they are watching. But real life is never that simple. Real people don’t necessarily change (forever at least) because of their past mistakes. Real people don’t always have to face their consequences. Real people aren’t simply bad or good. Real life is complicated and audiences don’t want complicated.
As crazy as it sounds, the movie that is about hookers, midget darts and drunken office parties, suffers because it is too closely aligned with real life. The rich and prosperous are untouchable. They can do anything they want and mostly get away with it. They are special and we are not. Morals? Fuck morals. Consequences? Nonexistent. The rich, the celebrities, the special ones all live like this. The film is not necessarily agreeing with these ideals. The film is simple stating that they exist. And there is nothing you can do about it. That makes for a difficult movie to sell to the middle class.
The beauty of film (or art in general) is that it creates discussion. It forces people to think. This particular film could (and should) be discussed for decades by film critics, art critics, film fans, random blogs, family members and friends. This film is unique because it is basically a big middle finger to the paying audience. It is a big middle finger to the real life victims of Jordan Belfort. It is a big middle finger to anybody who works hard their entire life to barely get by. It pisses everyone off. And because of that, I finally understand why it was made.