With the debate raging about whether Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” celebrates the excesses it portrays or makes a moral case against them, Variety’s Whitney Friedlander and David S. Cohen square off over the picture. Read David Cohen’s opinion here. Below is Whitney Friedlander’s take. It should be obvious, but THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Of all the New Year’s Eve events I’ve been invited to, the one I fear will be the most raucous is my co-worker’s house party. How much trouble could a bunch of twentysomething lads get into while pregaming in West L.A. before heading out to the Rose Bowl?
Did I mention it’s a “Wolf of Wall Street”-themed party?
And this is the problem with Martin Scorsese’s latest film: No matter how much he or star Leonardo DiCaprio claim to not condone Jordan Belfort’s stories of 1980s greed and excess, the movie is still three hours of cash, drugs, hookers, repeat. The lead character cons both rich and poor, ingests copious amounts of cocaine and Quaaludes, endangers the lives and welfare of everyone he knows and essentially rapes his wife. For the “Entourage” generation, it’s a celebration of this lifestyle that tells them you can either have this for a short while before you get busted (something that’s mostly glossed over in the film) or you can forever be a rundown sadsack riding the subway and only glimpsing the good life, like Kyle Chandler’s FBI agent Patrick Denham.
It’s not like antiheroes or glamorously decadent lifestyles are anything new. Forget “Great Gatsby”-themed parties; I’ve heard of “Gatsby”-themed weddings. And Daisy Buchanan’s shiny flapper dresses and headbands still inspire Fashion Week collections (and my wardrobe). Christopher Moltisanti was my favorite “Sopranos” character. This year, I appreciated the elaborate cons and costumes of “American Hustle,” and I would love to hear a compelling argument as to why “Breaking Bad” was not the best show on television.
But the difference is that all of those characters were seen facing serious consequences, even if they didn’t actually handle them well, and they suffered because of their actions. Belfort may have served his time, but — as the movie shows — he then traveled the world to teach his strategies to others who looked up to him and wanted to emulate him. Oh, and he’s also shopping his own reality TV show.