„Sell me this pen!“ challenges Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) the audience of his sales seminar. Empty faces look back at him and into the audience in the cinema. They all want to become rich and lead the life Belfort once had. The audience seems hopeful and reflects the cinema’s audience, who knows the correct answer to the challenge after three hours of entertaining cinema. But what remains is the question if we even want to know this answer…
Jordan Belfort is a greedy egomaniac. This harsh judgement isn’t really an exaggeration, but a fairly precise description. Director Martin Scorsese has taken his audience into the mind of true evil before, Taxi Driver and Gangs of New York are just two examples. And just like these classics The Wolf of Wall Street is amusing, charming and highly entertaining. However, this film is extremely and irritatingly emptied of all human emotions. Jordan Belfort lives in the fast lane, he rips people off, he gets rich fast, he never gives up, he cheats on his wife, falls in love, screws around with prostitutes, does tons of drugs, gives up his career and ends up in prison and yet not one second of the film let’s the audience in on what he actually feels. The film remains at the surface and looses itself in admittedly amusing anecdotes and absurdity.
So after three hours I left the screening room a little unsure: does everyone feel this disgusted by these greedy characters and is that why the film works although there is no moral turning point inscripted? Or does this catharsis only work on me and the superficiality should be critiqued?
It’s probably different for everyone and dependent on one’s mood. But leaving this question of added value aside, one definitely has to hand it to Scorsese and his impressive actors: not many can be this entertaining for three hours straight.