The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Enjoying a ride isn’t the same as endorsing it

with 25 comments

thewolfonwallstreet

The moment when Jordan Belfort grabbed the dwarf to throw him at a target board I knew where I had him.

People who take pleasure in dwarf tossing you get no love from me. Not that Jordan Belfort needed it. Right from the start it was clear that he was so full of his love for money, drugs and himself, that there wasn’t room for anything else.

I thought I knew what I was in for as I went out on the three hour long ride that is The Wolf of Wall Street. I knew that I would travel in company with a man who was ruthless, boundless and careless – a psychopath, who I wouldn’t want to come near if I met him in real life. Judging from the trailer it looked as if it might get a bit crazy on the way.

But I don’t think I was prepared for how hedonistic the film would be. I knew it would be explicit, but not that it would more or less 180 minutes of sex and drug orgies.

180 minutes of orgies
People have group sex at the office with prostitutes. They’re both snorting cocaine and blowing it into each other’s unmentionable body parts and they’re masturbating publicly. They’re on a constant high, each one of them a chemical plant on legs. I didn’t count, but someone else did, and found 569 uses of the f-word in this film, which makes three times a minute. And it would be more if it wasn’t for all those scenes where they’re too stoned to speak a word.

The mass scenes in the office spays are spectacular, reminding me of the visual joy of The Great Gatsby, although Gatsby’s parties appear small and tidy in comparison.

Of course I enjoyed watching this! The three hours were over before I knew it, not the least because it’s so darkly funny most of the time. There’s especially one scene that will be a competitor for the title “most memorable scene of the year”. It’s when diCaprio gets to show his talent for physical comedy, which I wasn’t aware of that he had. He’s on the level of Rowan Atkinson in body language and control as he – I don’t know how to describe this – is floating down a stair, like a piece of slime, since he’s too high on drugs to even crawl properly. I just couldn’t stop laughing.

thewolfofwallstreetGlorifying Belfort?
The question is if the fact that the movie is so entertaining somehow puts Jordan Belfort, who is a real person, in better light. Is he glorified by this film? Some critics have suggested this, but I disagree. Just because you enjoy a ride, it doesn’t mean that you endorse it.

It’s true that The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t spend a lot of time with those who have paid the price for the orgies in the office at Wall Street – their families and their customers – people with ordinary jobs who lost their savings because they were lied to, cheated and manipulated by Belfort and his colleagues. But the audience isn’t more stupid than that they realize this. We can figure out that there are for every win they make, there’s a victim. We don’t have any doubt about that Belfort is a bad person. Bad as in “bad bad”. He’s not a bad guy with a good heart, who will learn and get better. He’s just someone who has done terrible things and who wouldn’t hesitate to keep doing them if he could gain from it. Without giving away what happens in the end, I’d say that I interpret it as a dark, cynical and satire comment on the state of the world.

I too get sick though thinking about the fact that Belfort actually appears in this film in a cameo and that he will money on it, since it’s based on his book, which he already gets a lot of money from, while, from what I’ve heard in media, his victims still haven’t gotten their money back. But in the end, it would be wrong to let this knowledge affect how I judge The Wolf of Wall Street as a movie.

I had a blast and I would recommend others to see it. Just don’t bring your parents or children with you. This is one you want to see on your own.

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, US 2013) My rating: 4,5/5

filmspanarna

I watched The Wolf of Wall Street alongside with the Swedish bloggers in Filmspanarna. Here are links to the posts by my fellow bloggers:

In English

Fredrik on film

In Swedish

Except Fear
Filmparadiset
Fiffis filmtajm
Fripps filmrevyer
Har du inte sett den
Jojjenito
Movies-Noir
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Moving landscapes

Written by Jessica

January 15, 2014 at 6:00 am

25 Responses

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  1. Great write-up, Jessica! Saw this one last Friday and had a lot of fun (even if the film’s a bit too long), especially in that hilarious scene you described above! Agree completely with “just because you enjoy a ride, it doesn’t mean that you endorse it”.

    fernandorafael

    January 15, 2014 at 6:17 am

    • Thanks Fernando! I had that initial reaction too, that it was a little tad overlong, but now as I think back of it I feel differently about it. It’s only been a few days and I’d actually like to watch it again if I only had the time.

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      • Yeah, I wouldn’t mind watching it again. But maybe at home, where I can take breaks, haha.

        fernandorafael

        January 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

  2. Fine write up. I certainly agree that enjoying the ride isn’t endorsing it. But I didn’t enjoy it. In fact I couldn’t make it through it. I just don’t feel a creative filmmaker with good material has to soak the film with such excess. Not judging anyone but it didn’t work for me.

    keith7198

    January 15, 2014 at 6:27 am

    • Thanks Keith! I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. Did you walk out of the cinema? Then you really must have suffered. I’ve never seen anything that I hated so much that I felt compelled to leave.

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 1:57 pm

  3. Nice pictures you´ve got there and I like your comparision between Leo in/on the stairs and slime 😉

    When you see the stairs from his point of view it has about 17 steps, when you see the actual stairs from a distance it has 6 steps. If it was the other way around you could probably understand a little bit better why he makes himself like a human football and tries to roll down from it (“ìt´s just a few steps, come on!”) but now he sees a mountain, not a hill. And still… Those drugs…..;)

    Fiffi

    January 15, 2014 at 7:08 am

    • It must have been wonderful to watch it a second time, being able to notice a lot of details that got lost in the overflow of images the first time. Like counting the steps in the stair! Nice observation. I just listened to a podcast that talked a lot about how the image ratio is switching throughout the film. That was something that I was completely unaware of.

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm

  4. Great write up Jessica and you’ve made me even more excited to see this. Only opens here this week but I hope to check it out ASAP. Was gonna go with my dad but not sure the office orgies will be his thing to be honest! 🙂

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    January 15, 2014 at 10:16 am

    • Thanks Terry! I don’t know your dad, but well… it might get a bit awkward. There are a LOT of orgies. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

  5. Haha! Can’t beat a bit of dwarf tossing, Jessica, c’mon! 😉

    Joking aside, this sounds like my kinda film. I can’t wait to see it. Fine write-up, as always. 🙂

    Mark Walker

    January 15, 2014 at 11:25 am

    • Thank you Mark! I can’t wait to hear what you’ll make of it!

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

  6. I was surprised at how well the film holds up during the three hours. It flows almost like water, which is no easy task. But Scorsese, Schoonmaker and the cast make it work. Enjoyable to say the least.

    Of course, it’s not for everyone. I guess you either love it or hate it. I gave it 4 out of 5, so it worked for me! 🙂

    Movies - Noir

    January 15, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    • It seems to split people. It’s like certain food dishes: Olives. Old cheese. Liquorice. Some like it, others don’t. Not that much in between.

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm

  7. To bring up Don Jon again — not only does he not say the f-word nearly as many times as Jordan, but his excesses seems almost coy in comparison. Little did we believe that at Malmö, right? 😉

    While I didn’t appreciate the physical comedy nearlya as much as you I absolutely agree with you that those three hours flew by surprisingly fast.

    Sofia

    January 15, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    • Over 120 uses of the f-word in Don Jon, according to the parent’s guide. No, it’s not anywhere nere and it’s rather sweet and innocent in relation to this one, isn’t it?

      Jessica

      January 16, 2014 at 12:01 am

  8. This is my favorite film of the year, and one of my favorites over the last several years. I think it’s Scorsese’s best since Goodfellas and I think I have it in my Scorsese Top 5 (though I would have to do some thinking to really hash that out).

    Great write-up and I think you’re spot-on, especially with Leo’s physical comedy. I have to admit, I knew this film would be trouble when I saw it at a screener the week before it came out. I knew that certain audiences would hate it. I know this because I was laughing really loudly at most of what was going on while the rest of the theater was mostly silent, appalled. There were at least 5 to 10 that left in the first 5 minutes.

    John

    January 15, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    • Thank you! That many walked out? It’s really a shame. What did they expect? But I suppose if it was a free screening on beforehand, perhaps they were more inclined to go compared to if they had paid for the tickets.

      I really loved this film and it might even raise a bit further in my appreciation in the future. I imagine that I wi see it more times.

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 11:56 pm

      • Free screenings are always interesting for that very reason. People see “Free!!!” and they go, even if they may not like it. Probably half of the screenings I’ve seen have featured walk-outs. But it’s usually just a few, never as many as I saw at Wolf of Wall Street.

        I’ve already gone a 2nd time, and all of my friends who haven’t seen it know that they can ask me and I’ll go a 3rd time. What can I say? I’m a huge sucker for Scorsese.

        John

        January 17, 2014 at 3:37 am

        • I could easily go a second time. The problem is just to find the time to do it. But if I can persuade my family to come with me perhaps…

          Jessica

          January 22, 2014 at 10:29 pm

  9. I loved the film and I will watch it again. It has more funny scenes than any film I can come to think of right now. And I have only seen it once. Hi-larious.

    On a more serious note I really don’t get why people are so worked up about this guy, Jordan. Sometime it is like he is seen as something über-evil thingy we all should hate. Like HE is something unnormal, something singular or special. I think it is much more interesting to point a finger at the society that foster this character. Hey, do anyone think he is the only one? Jordan is not the problem, he is only the symptom.

    My take is that Scorsese has done a film about the American dream. I love the American dream. I long for it. But there is a dark side of it, and sometime it creates monsters. That is really an interesting subject. In my own review I compared it to another favourite from ’13 “Spring breakers”. There it is again, the American dream. So interesting in this day and age.

    Hope I didn’t upset anyone.

    Go Broncos!

    Henke

    January 15, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    • Yes, the the movie has an edge, but the point isn’t directed to just Jordan.It’s directed to the rest of us. I think the key to the film is the final scene, which I won’t go into here for not spoling more than I have to. I think it’s a statement about the state of the world.

      Jessica

      January 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm

  10. I believe it was 506 f-bombs, but anyway… 😉

    I agree with the film being a hilarious crazy ride. The 3 hours went by fast. One of the longest films I’ve seen at a theatre, only beaten by Apocalypse Now Redux (3h 22min).

    “Just because you enjoy a ride, it doesn’t mean that you endorse it.” True words. A film is a film, and a real person is real person.

    Jojjenito

    January 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    • Different sources I guess. The longest film I’ve seen was the 5h version of Fanny & Alexander. That was hard to cope with, physically, though we had a break in the middle.

      Jessica

      January 22, 2014 at 10:28 pm

  11. Saw it this past weekend and had a blast as well. Agree that that scene with the Lamborghini is the most memorable thing, such a great performance and the eventual payoff was great. I too feel no sympathy for Belfort, but this movie does show the excess which has gone (and probably still goes on) in the world of stocks.

    Nostra

    January 22, 2014 at 9:59 am

    • Yes, if anything I think the movie is a criticism against it. The little glimpse we get of the world as we know it, in the subway, is a contrast you’ve been longing for. It highlights the insanity that we’ve been witnesse and who’s mostl likely paying for it.

      Jessica

      January 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm


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