Wednesday, January 01, 2014

"A Shining Example"

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was the best movie of 2013. Everything about it just simply kills, from the acting to the directing to the script to the editing to the simple fact that it's a film with the crackling, in-the-moment, balls-out energy you'd expect from a bold young voice fresh out of film school... made by a living-legend in his 70s.

Unfortunately, it's also a movie getting dogged by some critics (and audiences) for what some see as an insufficiently clear-cut condemnation of it's title character; by which they generally seem to mean that the film doesn't go out of it's way to make all of the fun stuff Jordan Belfort and company did with their ill-gotten millions look "not fun" in order to make a point. This, of course, displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the film, reality, how movies are made, etc. Simply put: A.) On a basic narrative level, if these guys' "playtime" doesn't look enjoyable to the audience, you're undercutting the fundamental story/character question of "why did they DO this???," and B.) Not to be crass about it, but neither Martin Scorsese nor anyone else needs to "make" cocaine-fueled orgies with top-dollar call girls "look like fun" - that stuff already looks like a ton of fun - that's just the movie being honest.

This, on the other hand, is a little trickier to deal with...



That's a promotional clip recorded by Leonardo DiCaprio for Keppler Speakers, a talent/booking agency for motivational speakers that has the actual Jordan Belfort as a client, in which the actor endorses his real-world counterpart's skill at the motivation game.

It's pretty meta, when you consider that Belfort effectively returns the favor by playing an emcee introducing DiCaprio as himself at one of these motivational gigs in the film, but I can't imagine DiCaprio or the film's producers are happy to see this clip (which has been around since August) going viral now. There's nothing especially "bad" going on here (the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that this bastard was a hell of a salesman) but it certainly won't help quiet the moral-wailers to be on tape talking glowingly about Belfort as an example of "the transformative power of ambition and hard work" playing opposite the more recent party-line of "he sucks and our movie clearly shows that he sucks."

Me, I'm mostly amused by it because it's effectively a real-world continuation of the film's overall point: These guys get away with it. They do short stints in white-collar "prison," they stay rich, they get played by handsome movie stars in big Hollywood movies (Belfort already had a foot in the film industry via executive producing Hulk Hogan's Christmas movie - really), and it all happens because "we" are always and forever complicit in it. Of course this guy (who literally cheats death and all other karmic punishments multiple times in the film) gets the actor playing him (as a raving sociopath) in the movie to make a commercial for him. That's just how it works - the perfect post-credits stinger; though one that could likely help cost DiCaprio his Best Actor statue.