Debauchery and the Dow: “The Wolf of Wall Street” is full of sex, drugs, and block trades

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

I don’t often watch movies when they are in distribution, but this summer I managed to catch “The Wolf of Wall Street” with some friends. I had heard about the controversy surrounding the film; namely, that Scorsese had included a record number of f-bombs in the movie and that it glorified drug use. This only made me want to watch the movie more, and I’m glad I did. This is an excellent film, and Leonardo DiCaprio gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Jordan Belfort, who made more money than he could ever spend by selling penny stock to suckers and by engaging in a number of illegal trading practices. Thankfully Scorsese censors nothing in this film. The incessant foul language is part of the frank realism of the movie, as is the graphic depiction of people actually enjoying elicit drugs, sex, and all the luxuries and carnal delights available to people of great wealth. The film is devoid of any sentimentality or condemnation of Belfort’s behavior. Instead, it faithfully reproduces the testosterone-laden, sex-filled and drug-fueled environment of Wall Street in the 1990s. Who knew brokers lived such wild lives? The behavior is so extreme that it made me want to check out Belfort’s autobiography, the basis of the screenplay, to see if Scorsese took any liberties or exaggerated anything. Somehow I doubt he did. Despite the realistic feel of the movie, Scorsese has DiCaprio break the convention of realism on occasion and give monologues directly to the camera. He does so with such swagger and panache that it brings the viewer directly into the film. He talks to the viewer as to a compatriot, inviting the viewer to become a participant, not just an observer. He seems to be asking the audience (well, perhaps only the men in the audience), “Wouldn’t you have done exactly the same thing?” And I think this is the point of the whole movie. It is not the condemnation of one man’s questionable behavior; it is the frank exposure of a world hidden from all but those who inhabit it, and although it does not justify Belfort’s reprehensible behavior, it makes it fully comprehensible. And did I mention that the movie is very, very funny? For those who are uncomfortable with foul language or graphic depictions of sexual orgies, stay way. I’m surprised this film did not garner an NC-17 rating; clearly, Scorsese and the studio knew how to avoid that rating of death. But if you are up for a wild ride, or if you are a fan of either Scorsese or DiCaprio, this film is definitely worth your time.

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