Thursday, April 07, 2016

Review of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Hard to know how to review this. It's much too long, for a start. Jordan Belfort is too disgusting a person with whom to spend three hours - doesn't Scorsese know how to indicate that time passes actually having to pass? The film does show how nasty the crowd around him and his brokerage company was, but it's mostly in terms of their moral depravity - drugs and hookers. There isn't much sense that what they in business terms was wrong, and had victims - just that it was against the rules. And Belfort is portrayed as someone with his own moral code, that he stuck too - he never ratted on his real friends, the guys from his neighbourhood that he recruited to run the company with him. (In this he is rather like the Mafia types in Scorsese's Goodfellas; maybe that's the best way to think about Wall Street, as just another organised crime gang.) Even when he's wearing a wire because he has become a cooperative witness, he takes risks to indicate to them that he is doing so - though inexplicably that doesn't seem to have any consequences. He still only serves three years, in a nice prison with tennis courts.

That's the message of the whole film, really, that this stuff doesn't have consequences. His marriage is wrecked, mainly by his drug and hookers habits - but he didn't seem to care much about any of that anyway. After his imprisonment he's still giving motivational lectures on selling. Of course, it would be wrong for this to have a happy ending, with justice being served and the evil-doers getting their just desserts. That isn't what happens in real life, and it would be implausible to tell a financial story that ended that way. There is a touch of consolation in the familiar Hollywood theme that the rich and powerful aren't any more happy than the rest of us, but even that is not really carried through. A certain kind of young man seeing this film would think of it as a recruiting commercial for the financial services industry.

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