On Wolf of Wall Street


When I first saw Scorsese’s drugged up, delirious masterpiece in Bromley cinema, the reaction was interesting to say the least. City boys (who seemed to comprise the majority of the audience) felt like they’d finally found a film that represented their lives. But a man in a McDonald’s uniform looked like he had inadvertently walked into the seventh circle of hell, and left quietly, unhappily, back to his minimum wage existence having no chance at living the life represented on screen.

In many ways the film is the most pro-drug movie ever made, with a genuine cocaine pace put together by the then 70-year-old director and his Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker. According to Peter Biskind’s classic nonfiction tale of 70s American cinema, Easy Riders Raging Bulls, Scorsese had a serious cocaine habit during the latter part of the decade and The Wolf of Wall Street seems to be a halcyon vision of the best times he had whilst on illicit street drugs. In a recent interview the director admitted “I’m really afraid that there’s no redemption possible for the wolves,” and adds “I’m a lapsed Catholic, for sure. Which is what allows me to make films, to work in the entertainment business. Otherwise, I wouldn’t make any concessions. I’d be praying constantly. Making films means grappling with the outer world, confronting it. I was like Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”: I wanted to go to the very end of my limits. I almost died from it. The day that I looked at myself, I saw a disappointing man. I admit that there are certain elements in Leonardo DiCaprio’s character that are autobiographical. I lived a crazy period.” There is more cocaine use in this movie, with less negative effects, than I have ever seen in cinematic history. The extraordinary cameo by Matthew McConaughey on Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) first day on Wall Street sums up the mission plan for Belfort’s illegal financial scam. After he orders five Absolute Martinis, does a toot of coke, and he explains the rules of Wall Street to Belfort (advice he takes to heart)

“Number one rule of Wall Street… Nobody… I don’t care if you’re Warren Buffet or Jimmy Buffet… Nobody knows if the stock is going to go up, down or in fucking circles, least of all stock brokers. It’s all a fugazi. You know what a fugazi is?”

“Fugayzi. It’s a fake.”

Although DiCaprio gives the performance of his career – muscular, vulnerable, sexualised, charismatic – McConaughey won the Oscar that year for the far less impressive Aids drama Dallas Buyers Club, but probably as a cumulative effect of his career to date, as that’s how the Academy Awards tend to operate, and possibly for his extraordinary cameo in Wall Street.

Di Caprio’s performance is far superior, but the Liberal Hollywood media were hardly likely to give an Oscar for something quite so subversive. After Belfort loses his job on Black Monday, he organises a rag tag band of dim-witted, non-college graduates (including a masterful performance by Jonah Hill) to fleece the public of as much cash as humanly possible, while cheating on his wife, abusing all manner of drugs and sleeping with an endless array of hookers and bar girls, using his wealth to break the moral codes of normal society.

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