Scorsese’s newest film features criminal financier, Jordan Belfort. It’s a three-hour trash-fest, of sex, drugs, and money, sometimes funny, occasionally even hilarious, but ultimately a disturbing reminder of how Wall street crooks rip us off.
The movie shows the corruption and scandal surrounding financial institutions of the 1990’s, as embodied in the character of Jordan Belfort. Di Caprio played the part well, his acting is good, but sometimes the baby face doesn’t cut it.
A younger Harvey Keitel for the vicious atmosphere of the era, and De Niro for the psychopathic elements of Belfort’s character. For instance, the scene where Belfort starts selling worthless stock to his customers needs De Niro’s indelible stamp. Yet with such a colourful blend of characters and events, the script had great scope for development, potentially a true classic, potentially a Bacchanalian feast for the senses, like Fellini’s masterpiece, “Roma”.
One drawback is that the movie focuses too freely on the trashy elements of the period, and as such it sacrifices the need for artistic refinement. In a series of wham-bang episodes it strives to impress, and fails. The film is a painful reminder of a hard-nosed era that prepared the ground for the crash of 2008.
There is a limited storyline, and the script suffers from its own vacuity, though admittedly Scorsese does cast a wry look at the American Dream fantasy. Actor, Jonah Hill is outstanding, and the film is occasionally hilarious, but what is Scorsese is aiming for in this movie, if anything? He adopts a neutral stance, yet slavishly follows bad-boy Belfort around with admiring camera angles. The protagonist was a ruthless con who wiped out the savings portfolios of countless Americans, but who cares about that, whatever makes for a good film right?
There is a tedious litany of macho movie-motifs; the first half is bloated, there’s only so much cocaine-snorting, bimbo-humping, and cash-bragging that this girl can handle. The second half is way more fun, but three hours of sordid scenery is enough to turn anyone blind. In this three-hour trash-fest, Terrence Winter’s script is wasted on these Wall Street creeps. Predictably, movie plaudits are praising the film to the hilt.
What exactly have we learned in the last decade?
Question; why the fascination with this seedy financier, who is still rich, still centre stage, and privileged to have a top Hollywood director and actor tell his story; meanwhile his victims are being mugged, yet again. Is anyone telling their stories, I wonder?
There is however one interesting facet to this film, and I’m sure it’s unintentional. Creating a synergistic work environment is a rare skill that business leaders often lack, and yet Belfort was very gifted in this regard. Emotionally, and physically, everyone was ‘on message’.
Belfort was a natural salesman; he used a mixture of charisma and cunning to win over his customers, gain the confidence of his peers, and ensure compliance within the ranks. Stratton Oakmont’s employees were hell-bent on making their boss richer. What a shame Belfort didn’t use his prodigious talent to improve lives instead of becoming a top-level thief.