wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Martin Scorsese shows the world how it's done, once again. A crazy ride of questionable morals, The Wolf of Wall Street shows us the escapades of a greedy libertine in a manner that makes you see through your own righteousness. Entertaining, hilarious and downright vulgar, Scorsese at the helm and DiCaprio's turn as the titular character make for quite a film.Read more
We live rather tame lives, if you really think about it. Years of conditioning about what's right and what's wrong; the pangs of guilt or, alternatively, the adrenaline rush one gets when one crosses a moral 'line'; passing moral judgements about the other; penance for one's 'sins'; the works. Humanity lives by a code of ethics that, at least for the most part, seems to work for us.
But then, who really writes this 'code'? Who makes the rules, and if we go by the fundamental premise that all of humankind is equal, then who's to say what defines right and wrong in the first place? After all, one man's food is another man's poison. Consequently, there will always be those who live life by their own rules, all notions of morality be damned. These people, usually, are the ones who aren't accountable for their Aston Martins.
Enter Jordan Belfort - Wall Street stockbroker and salesman extraordinaire - a man who made millions by laundering fraudulent stocks to unsuspecting investors. A self-styled Robin Hood who took wealth from the rich and gave it to... Himself! A man who made so much money that he didn't mind throwing cash in the trash, just for kicks.
Based on the book 'The Wolf of Wall Street' written by the real life Belfort himself, Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of the scamster's life is an astonishingly audacious piece of cinema - both in content as well as execution.
With the film largely based on fact, one can't help but be overwhelmed by just how obscene Belfort's greed, depravity, lasciviousness and lust for money was; and that lust just grew bigger with each additional million he made. Jordan Belfort didn't just push the limits of morality, he ignored them completely, seeming to live in an alternate dimension where morality as a concept just didn't exist.
Then there's what Martin Scorsese has done with Belfort's story. Call it glorification, call it treating a serious issue with a far lighter tone than can be considered appropriate, or call it sheer masterclass in adopting a cinematic style that will work best with the written word - either way, Scorsese knocks this one out of the park the way only he can.
Directed with a kind of fervent energy that one hasn't seen from the great man in a while, The Wolf of Wall Street is cinema on crack. Outrageously funny, incredibly daring in terms of how it never shies away from going deeper and deeper into the realms of 'immorality', briskly paced to the extent that one never realizes its monstrous runtime, and phenomenally performed to boot, The Wolf of Wall Street will either be the most fun you've had at the cinemas in a while, or if the vulgarity of Belfort's excesses begin to get to you, it can also be the most taxing experience in recent times.
Because make no mistake, neither Martin Scorsese nor his terrific cast have held themselves back with this one; they've gone all out to bring you characters that make you question everything you believe in. Sex, violence, drugs, language, corruption, immorality and everything considered taboo are actually celebrated with uncontrolled licentiousness in the film.
In fact, despite the fact that the film has been released in India with a good six minutes chopped off, I still couldn't help wonder how the censors were mature enough to let the film release at all - not that I'm complaining. It is rated as an adult film, obviously, but I know for a fact that even many 'adults' will find it hard to stomach the level of all-round immodest extravagance of sin that has been depicted in the film.
Of the cast, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort and Jonah Hill as his aide Donnie give their characters their unbridled all. DiCaprio, in particular, must be saluted for pumping Belfort with a quality that makes him seem 'normal', despite his excesses. They should be someone we despise, but we are never allowed to take a moral stance with them. DiCaprio - and Scorsese, of course, - make you an unsuspecting participant in everything that you would ideally consider 'wrong', which consequently shakes you off from your own moral high ground, bringing your self-righteousness crashing down.
Questions will be asked, of course. Is it right to glorify something that is so obviously 'wrong'? Should there have been a stronger focus on highlighting that sin must always be atoned for; that karma will come back to bite you in the backside some day? Is a film like The Wolf of Wall Street irresponsible towards society, because it seems to make heroes out of people who should be considered as villains?
These are all points of view, which, while important to talk about, actually are a disservice to the intent of the film altogether. Because, whether we like it or not, the world is very clearly run by all the Belforts out there - the ones who are 'more equal' than the others. Scorsese daringly shows us that even these people are human, and by making an enjoyable film out of Belfort's story, he shows us that if we were in Jordan Belfort's shoes, we would probably have been no different. We're all, in some way or the other, wolves in human clothing.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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