It’s funny to see what sets people off about a certain acclaimed movie after a while. It’s almost like the public just can’t accept a great piece of entertainment for what it is anymore; there’s got to be one piece picked apart, one misplaced brushstroke on a masterpiece.
Already this year we’ve seen in happen with “American Hustle” (criticized for “not really having a story,” whatever that means) and “Gravity” (being totally scientifically inaccurate), and now the targets of pop-culture salvos apparently have turned their targets on “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
What’s their criticism? Apparently the movie “glorifies” its central figure, the scheming, conniving junk-stock trader Jordan Belfort (played with his usual charisma by Leonardo DiCaprio). They say the felonious world – full of orgies and prostitutes, pills and booze, money and beautiful, willing women – is one that people will flock to join.
The people that claim that “The Wolf of Wall Street” somehow heaps glory on Belfort’s character and his band of merry rogues are missing the point completely. The movie is an unabashed masterpiece of satire, and intelligent movie-goers should be in on the joke from minute one. DiCaprio, screenwriter Terrence Winter and the remarkable director Martin Scorsese have crafted a scathing look at the world of corporate greed, populated by overgrown kids tossing money around at random. From the very beginning – when a marvelous Matthew McConaghey delivers a speech extolling the virtues of self-love as a release for the stresses of work – the movie treats its characters as juveniles swinging through the world, creating fortunes and wrecking lives. Scorsese doesn’t hit you over the head with the latter – he slips it in (one brief shot of an employee’s eventual suicide is particularly effective), and the subtlety makes it all the more effective.
Oh, and DiCaprio’s Belfort – for all his charisma – is a monster of a man, really, cheating on both wives, snorting cocaine and popping Quaaludes, and even slugging his wife in the stomach during one particularly heated argument. Anyone who aspires to be that type of human being? Well, we wouldn’t want to meet them. Plenty of movies have been made about monsters. They’re captivating figures, and they teach us what we shouldn’t be. The people who are criticizing the movie? They’re missing out on the big point that Scorsese, DiCaprio et. Al have snuck in to the public consciousness: these monsters? They’re the ones who played with all our financial futures for far, far, far too long.