The Wolf of Wall Street has been causing quite a stir since it hit theatres on Christmas Day. With its depiction of sex, drugs and hedonism, many critics are upset over the fact that the film seems to be promoting the lifestyle that its showing. People are also angry that we never really get a chance to see the other side of the story and how Belfort’s crimes damaged those who fell victim to his fraud. Instead, the film just keeps the spotlight on its titular character.
Now, Leonardo DiCaprio is firing back and defending the film, saying that those who think it glorifies excess have missed the boat. Speaking to HitFix in a recent interview, the actor had this to say:
“I think anyone who thinks [that the film glorifies excess] missed the boat entirely. I grew up in a generation of watching [Scorsese]‘s movies and when you come from a standpoint of being someone who is so influenced by him and De Niro’s work, to hear specific reactions they had to films that, now, as the years roll by — we’re all desensitized to those things, you know what I’m saying? To hear that there were any type of reactions that weren’t — I’m not saying people should particularly praise this film for that reason, but I think it takes a while to permeate into the culture a little bit.
“When I see his movies now, it’s a shock to me that there was ever any kind of — I mean I listened to stories of ‘The Last Temptation of Christ.’ I listened to stories of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ and even ‘Mean Streets,’ but to me they’re a classic part of American cinema history that have influenced so many other filmmakers and so many other genres. It’s insane.”
“It’s exciting to be a part of a film, in a way, that is kind of bold and is taking a chance like that, and I think that anyone that thinks this is a celebration of Wall Street and this sort of hedonism — yes, the unique thing about Marty is that he doesn’t judge his characters. And that was something that you don’t quite understand while you’re making the movie, but he allows the freedom of this almost hypnotic, drug-infused, wild ride that these characters go on. And he allows you, as an audience — guilty or not — to enjoy in that ride without judging who these people are.
“Because ultimately, he keeps saying this: ‘Who am I to judge anybody?’ I mean ultimately I think if anyone watches this movie, at the end of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ they’re going to see that we’re not at all condoning this behavior. In fact we’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about. Because, to me, this attitude of what these characters represent in this film are ultimately everything that’s wrong with the world we live in.”
DiCaprio doesn’t stop there though. He also spoke to Variety about the same issues, saying the following:
“The book was a cautionary tale and if you sit through the end of the film, you’ll realize what we’re saying about these people and this world, because it’s an intoxicating one. I think it’s amazing somebody like Martin Scorsese is still making films that are vital and talked about, and have an element of controversy about them and are appealing to people of my generation. We grew up watching his films and he’s still making stuff that’s punk rock. It’s an amazing achievement.”
Finally, talking with Deadline, Leo explained why so much of the film is spent showing the drug-fuelled lifestyle that Belfort led:
“Number one, because we didn’t want to take a traditional approach to this film. Number two, we very consciously wanted this to be an analysis of the temptation and intoxication of the world of money and indulgence and hedonism,” the actor explained. “We wanted to take the audience on that journey, and so we don’t ever see the wake of that destruction until the very end, where they implode. It was a very conscious decision on our part, so the experience would be almost like taking a drug. To me, if you’re an audience member, you want to be completely submerged in the actual film.”
At the end of the day, there will always be critics. Especially with a controversial film like this, people will always find something to get upset over. While it’s true that The Wolf of Wall Street glorifies the hedonistic lifestyle that Belfort lived, it is still very much a cautionary tale, as DiCaprio says. We don’t get to see what happens to the millions of people who fell victim to Belfort’s fraud, but the film does very clearly depict the man’s downfall and shows us just how hard he crashes in the end.
Still, it’s easy to see where these criticisms are coming from as the majority of the film is a glorification of drugs, partying, sex and crime. Not that it bothers me, but I can see why some might be offended.
Tell us, are you upset by the way Martin Scorsese depicts Jordan Belfort’s lifestyle in The Wolf of Wall Street? Let us know in the comments section below.