The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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*. In 2010 Oliver Stone made a sequel to Wall Street (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). It was not well received. Instead, this movie would be Wall Street‘s true sequel, right down to verbatim quotations strewn about the script.
*. Fathers and sons. Stone’s movie was dedicated to his father and dramatized several different forms of fatherhood. Scorsese taught Stone at New York University. In The Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort is both Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko, his father (Rob Reiner) an unconvincing blowhard who just yells (which at least tells us where Jordan got it from). I can’t sort this out.
*. What has changed? We have gone from a morality tale to screwball comedy. The Masters of the Universe are bigger than ever, but far less capable and intelligent. It’s hard to believe such shallow creatures as we see here in Stone’s movie. Or, turning things around, to find any serious, adult people in Scorsese’s.

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*. Take the question of why they do it. Isn’t enough ever enough? For Stone this isn’t a real question, or at best it’s a superficial one. Competition is a biological urge. Here the superficial answer is the real one: you do it for the toys (the cars, the woman, the drugs, the yacht). Enough is never enough. Consumption can have no end, no satisfaction.
*. That this movie was based on a true story, is only more remarkable. The world has gone crazy, and is made even crazier by Hollywood’s inflation.
*. Naomi vs. Darien. The same car, or bottle of champagne, but a different year? At least Margot Robbie seems a little better adjusted to her role.

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*. Wall Street was a movie of rain and gray skies. The Wolf of Wall Street is all dazzling daylight, and bright lights in the big city at night. Which form of lighting is more realistic?
*. Seems odd to me that this movie set the record for the most uses of the word “fuck” in a mainstream, non-documentary film (which sounds like some kind of official award category). Perhaps I’m getting deaf to the f-bomb but I didn’t notice it that much.

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*. As with Wall Street, the seduction of the player lifestyle is irresistible. There’s simply no way to effectively criticize this sort of lifestyle, at least in a movie.
*. Denby thought the film an attempt to “out-Tarantino Tarantino.” I think this gives Tarantino too much credit for a style of film-making that has become generic. Is the hipster soundtrack (retro tunes either funked up or used ironically) a Tarantino innovation? I’m not sure, but I doubt it.
*. Mentioning Tarantino does, however, raise the same question I had after watching Django Unchained (a movie I liked a lot less): Did it take such a name director to make a film like this?
*. It’s both right and wrong to criticize such a movie for its excess. Wrong because it’s a movie about excess. Right for a more complicated reason.
*. I think it’s overdone. Not because there are just too many pills, too many strippers, the car too much, the house too grand, the yacht too big. And not because it repeats itself. But rather because Scorsese won’t let the viewer do any of the work. He was already going down this road with Goodfellas, but here he takes it to another level. There’s really no need to have Jordan break the fourth wall and explain what is obvious. There’s no need for the voiceovers, especially in the scene where Jordan’s contemplating seducing Aunt Emma. That scene would have been wonderful without all the nudges and winks. There’s no need for the cutaways to Popeye eating his spinach before Jordan revives himself from his ‘lude crash. Stuff like this talks down to the audience, as though we’re too stupid to figure out what is going on for ourselves.

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*. Also overdone are the number of scenes where characters can’t make themselves understood and so have to keep YELLING LOUDER, sometimes to no effect whatsoever. Yelling is false drama.
*. I do like how the final shot reveals what I think is the only interesting point being made: that the movie’s main subject is actually Jordan’s audience. The Wolf is only a performer (Gekko was a performer too, but also more than that). As such, he needs an audience. It is that audience – his enablers, cronies, toadies, suckers – that make him what he is. Without them, he’s nothing. They, in turn, egg him on and are complicit in their own ruin. Just look at the final shot here, with all those shining, eager, hopeful, greedy faces. They want so much to believe in this man.

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