When I began selecting movies for my mother to watch with her new Netflix account, she gave me a few suggestions, but her overall assessment was this: she only wanted happy movies.
I can understand that. I’ll take that under advisement.
I will not be placing “The Wolf Of Wall Street” on her list.
“Wolf,” the latest entry from the dynamic duo of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio is essentially the fall of Rome, complete with every last exposed body part, every lewd hedonistic act and every second filled with variations on the F-word (not to mention a few other words).
The movie, which runs three hours, is quite possibly the dirtiest, filthiest mainstream film I’ve ever seen. Sports personality Tony Kornheiser called it “a rocket ship” of a movie and advised anyone that wants to see it to go without a family member. I could not envision watching this next to my mother.
So I must have hated it, right? I loved it.
I didn’t love the movie because of the debauchery. It was a side item to the tale of financial corruption run amok by those we entrust to keep our money safe.
DiCaprio plays real life investment banker Jordan Belfort, founder of the boiler room pump-and-dump stock firm Stratton Oakmont, a man who figured out every conceivable way to defraud people of their money. The movie shows what he did, sort of how he did it and his life of excess because of it. It also shows his downfall along with the downfall of those at his side.
The film is not for everyone. It is certainly not for my mother.
It is not “The King’s Speech.” It is not “Saving Mr. Banks.” It is not necessarily better or worse than those films. It is, quite simply, a document of a sad part of our country and of ourselves.
You cannot really place movies side by side and judge them by the same standards. “Wolf” is rated R, known now as “a hard R.” That means it is was probably edited down from the notorious NC-17. It has multiple shots of drug use, deviant sexual acts and an overall ooze from the main characters that prevents us from providing one ounce of empathy.
But to limit the overkill would be to water down the acts of which Belfort was convicted. He is writhing naked on a bed of money with that woman because he stole it from you. He is planting his face in a mountain of cocaine with money he stole from you. He lied to you, and he knows it. The fact that we can actually enjoy watching him go from a nouveau riche scumbag to a loser in a track suit at a hotel seminar should be entertainment enough.
But I completely get it. Some people cannot watch any sort of filth, even if it is filth with a purpose. And I wouldn’t ask or expect them to do it. If you are offended by bad language, please do not go to this movie. The F-word, and variations of it, were used a total of 569 times. That means in a 179-minute movie, it was used about once every 20 seconds. Add to that 118 more curse words, and it can be overwhelming to even the most seasoned moviegoer.
I am of that group who don’t get as offended by bad language, but I do when I can tell it is used just to fill time. There are plenty of moments in lesser films where people curse just because they can. That’s more of an affront than in this particular instance, where each word punctuates what kind of sleazeballs these people really are. They aren’t particularly educated. They are crude and nasty, and using “darn” 569 times isn’t going to convey how we should feel about them.
There have been complaints about the lack of likable characters, the absence of a true victim, the void of true morality for the bulk of the film. I would argue that I am not interested in likable characters as much as interesting characters. The FBI agent portrayed by Kyle Chandler is definitely a moral character, although his final scene, riding home on a disgusting subway after doing his job, shows who truly gets rewarded financially in this country.
We don’t see victims. That’s another movie. We see the villains. We see them celebrate their ill-gotten gains, and we see them suffer because of it.
Without sounding snobby, I do believe that there is a level of intelligence needed to understand the motives of filmmakers, especially when they push the envelope of good taste. Dirty for the sake of being dirty is always easily seen. Exposing dirtiness can be seen by some as the same old dirt, but it is actually quite different.
“Wolf” is an expertly made film with incredible performances that I will never truly recommend ... unless I know you very well. As for my mother? Maybe I’ll recommend another Scorsese flick, “The Age of Innocence.”
Duke is the editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org