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Admission: no, I do not want to be like the guy played by Leonardo di Caprio. He is a dick, an obnoxious (using that word the second time in movie notes today…) arse, a typical representative of a social group that is thoroughly despicable. On the other hand: wouldn’t it be nice to accumulate this level of wealth and spend it while being a nice and amicable person such as I am? The cars would be more eco-friendly (I am sure Lamborghini can accommodate that), the houses  would be energy efficient, the drugs organic and the hookers would be very healthy and not surgically improved.

I have the feeling that part of what is appealing about “The Wolf of Wall Street” is just that: that there is a decrepit life style in front of us that still few would outright reject. That the way to the (financial) top by creating an llusion of imminent wealth for a less market savvy clientele through penny stocks can be so quick is appealing, even though we would prefer different means. With Jordan Belfort there is an incredibly unlikable person at the heart of the story, a used car or bible salesman if there ever was one, and even such a terrible person can be clever enough to make a fortune.

The film does not miss a step in clarifying that all Belfort wants is money and what money can buy. He gets an early briefing by an utterly magnetic Matthew McConathingy (still frighteningly skinny, I would guess not quite recovered from his “Dallas Buyers Club” appearance), with the film’s best scene early on when they sit down for lunch and the introduction to life on Wall Street starts off.

The rest of the film is not as intense or funny, but Scorsese is a professional filmmaker enough to be able to maintain interest for his anti-hero that even though there are lengths and redundancies in the script, it never quite crosses the border to boredom country. For me, at least, I heard there are other opinions. The film even affords some bits of film making avantgarde by allowing editor Schoonmaker some unconventional cuts and scene shifts, a mix of continuity editing errors and ill timing, but in the end a very effective way of establishing disorientation where that is appropriate.

I was happy to go with the flow, even the sometimes disrupted one, with the sometimes dull life of high finance and high expense bills, with the slight boredom of such life that requires to step up the speed a bit more, bring in more hookers and more cocaine and larger yachts and – worst of all – Swiss bankers. And there are some set pieces – Scorsese style – sprinkled across the three hours running time (btw: Indonesia running time 165 minutes… that should indicate a significant decline in prostitute and substance abuse and Jonah Hill party activity, I would guess). Notably a slapstick sequence involving some vintage drugs, a country club payphone, a white Ferrari and di Caprio trying to keep Jonah Hill from making a stupid phone call. I was thinking that this scene could really pull an audience out of the drama, that it could be seen as a silly bit of movie star self-presentation and disruptive to the more sinister things that are going on. As I thought that, maybe it was a little bit true for me. I did, however, concede that it only stresses the character of this film as a satire, that it did away with all suspicions that this is a displaced “Goodfellas” we are seeing. While there are parallels (most snappily formulated  by a BBC 5 Live listener in summarising “Fuckfellas”, splendid!), “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a different category, always looking for absurdity rather than tension, mostly managing to maintain a state of amusement rather than knuckle-biting. We do not care whether Belfort / di Caprio gets caught in the end, anyway. Or maybe we want him to get what he deserves. Either way, there is no rooting, there is no imminent danger, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a succession of scenes of excess and absurdity. As such it is of course the lesser film than its mob counterpart. But it is very amusing at that, with the largess and splendour matching the most expansive Scorsese films such as “Gangs of New York” or “Casino” –  and certainly much more rewarding as a film than the dull and misconceived “Hugo” was.

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