Mere seconds after rogue stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) appears in Martin Scorsese’s film, I was eagerly awaiting his comeuppance, if not actual slow death by steamroller. Unfortunately I had to wait nearly 3 hours and even then (SPOILER ALERT) it didn’t happen. So what was the point of the film then? Well, on the surface we may goggle at Belfort’s audacity and chuckle indulgently at his ability to consume prodigous amounts of drugs and suffer only partial paralysis, and beyond the surface – well.
I saw this on DVD in my brother’s house. Everyone else there seemed to find it funny. It made me feel like joining an Islamic terrorist organisation. All that kept me going was the hope that 9/11 would come along and give us a happy ending.
Of course it isn’t essential to like the central character of a movie in order to enjoy it. But here there is really no looking beyond this self-obsessed cockroach and his over-insistent narration of events and his glib self-justifications (like it’s OK for him to rip people off because he can spend their money better than they can). But at least not finding this film funny frees you to think of other things – like what would the film have been like if Alejandro Jodorowsky or David Cronenberg had directed it? Or if the lead had been played by Jim Carrey at his most manic?
The biggest question was why Scorsese made the thing in the first place. Perhaps Belfort had members of his family kidnapped and placed in some kind of Saw-style scenario wherein a vat of acid was poised to drop its contents on them if he bottled out. I didn’t see the ‘Making Of’ featurette so I don’t know.
Kidnap or no, I’m guessing that Scorsese didn’t much like Belfort, for all that the film seems to encourage us to laugh at his naughty-boy antics. Presumably there’s some kind of irony in play here, but to me it looked about as ironic as Coyote Ugly. But perhaps this is the kind of irony that is hard to distinguish from a smug wallowing in the way things are.
Even disregarding that the excesses on show seem a bit tired, frankly, though there is a striking scene where Belfort, unable to walk or stand after taking super-strong Quaaludes, has to make his way back to his car and drive home. It is as though he has been reduced to a lower life form, some form of protoplasm. However, by this stage only his actual transformation into a quivering pool of slime would have won me over.
The (eagerly-awaited, in my case) last shot is of an audience held rapt by Belfort, who has reinvented himself as a motivational speaker. Is this us then, the movie audience? Is Scorsese saying that we have been duped by Belfort too? Is Belfort exactly the hero that our debased culture deserves? If you enjoyed this film you should be suitably chastened. But I didn’t so – ha! I am Culturally Superior! Onto something more rewarding, like Goke – Bodysnatcher From Hell.