Boobs, Blow, and Benjamins: Defending The Wolf of Wall Street

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Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is one of most controversial movies playing right now. It’s probably the most talked about and debated film since 2012’s DJANGO UNCHAINED, which coincidently released exactly one year apart. Some people love it and some people hate it. There have been reports of walk-outs and movie patrons demanding their money back from theater managers. I personally witnessed about eight walk-outs at the screening that I attended. Why is the film so hotly debated? It is a 3hr film with wall to wall sex and drug use. It also happens to be one of the best films of the 2013 featuring a career best performance by star Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordon Belfort

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            One would hope that those that are going to see a Martin Scorsese film are familiar with his previous work. He is one of the most celebrated directors working today and yes he makes very violent movies.  TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, and CASINO are examples of his films that are violent and they are regarded as some of the best films ever made. However, those films are not about violence but about characters who act violently. Both GOODFELLAS and CASINO are gangster films therefore some level of violence should be expected. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is not a gangster film. It is about a stockbroker, as the title would suggest. Stockbrokers, to my knowledge, do not tend to be violent. Since the film takes place during the late 80’s in New York it is safe to assume that there was some level of drug use involved. I am in no means condoning the behavior but that was a reflection of the times. For those that have seen the film the character played by Matthew McConaughey give a detailed and somewhat reasonable explanation as to why he should do cocaine and lots of it. For those that remember the “greed is good” 80’s should recall the excesses that many people lived that had money. The film, based on a true story by the way, tells the story of one person who lives that lifestyle to fullest because a) he wanted to and most importantly b) he had the means to do so.         

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            Scorsese brilliantly shows the excesses and Belfort and his co-horts during their heyday from 1987 thru the early 90’s. There many scenes that show them having sex with many women and activities that can only classified as orgies. However Scorsese directs all the scenes in a hyper kinetic way that it almost seems like an exaggeration, which I believe it is. Remember folks the movie is based on the memories of someone who was clearly drugged out of his mind during that time so to say that his memories are a little hazy is certainly not a stretch of the imagination. The events certainly could have happened as portrayed but this is a movie not a documentary.

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            What is it about the sex and nudity that is portrayed in the film that has caused such a stir? I would argue that there is just about the same amount of nudity/sex in BASIC INSTINCT or SHOWGIRLS.  I understand that they may not have been expecting the level of skin seen in the film. In full disclosure the film does contain both male and female full frontal nudity. However walking into a Scorsese picture one is at least going to see violence so would that alone cause a walkout.  For example GOODFELLAS opens with a vicious stabbing and WOLF opens with Belfort receiving oral sex while driving a car and shortly thereafter snorting cocaine out of girl’s bottom. Both films feature the excesses of the world that they live in. Is one worse than the other?

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            Another aspect of the film that people have an issue with is the length of the film. The film is 3hours long and of course it could be a little shorter but why limit a good thing. A good movie can never be too long and a bad movie can never be too short. TITANIC, also starring DiCaprio, runs 20 minutes longer than this but that did not stop people from going to see it multiple times. I have viewed WOLF twice now and have the urge to see again. It is not one of those films that makes you feel its length. It is absolutely brilliant and fans of both DiCaprio and Scorsese will not be disappointed. If you have not seen it I strongly urge you to do so and if you have seen it then by all means see it again. Keep these questions in mind. What does that say about us as a society if we are more offended by sex/nudity rather than violence? Would those same people who walked out on this walk out on GOODFELLAS? Are the actions of the characters in GOODFELLAS and different from the actions of the characters in WOLF? I hope the answers are obvious.

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Sean Hill is an avid music fan, movie watcher, and self-proclaimed film buff. Entertainment has always been an important part of his life. He has a BS in Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting. Sean has seen more movies than he cares to count and does not have a favorite genre. He likes all types of films except for bad ones! In his reviews Sean tries to be as honest as possible in critiques with insight and humor. You can also follow Sean on Twitter as @hillstreetviewz and read reviews at hillstreetviewz.blogspot.com. Sean also has a video review blog on youtube.com/user/ReelMovieTalk. Sean currently lives in sunny San Diego with his wife and daughter.