Wolf of Wall Street takes objectifying women to new lows
It’s awards season for a new crop of Hollywood’s blockbuster movies, and in our home that means often spirited debates about which should win Best Picture, as well as which actor or actress should take home the statue come Oscar night. We try to see as many of the nominated films, and/or performances as possible so we know what we’re talking about when hooting and hollering, or loudly razing an award decision. What can I say, it’s what our family does.
And though not much has changed this year, I admit to being behind on my movie watching agenda. Of the nine films vying for a Best Picture win, I’ve seen just three: American Hustle, Captain Phillips and, as of this past weekend, The Wolf of Wall Street.
That leaves six movies to get in before the 86th Academy Awards debuts live from Hollywood on March 2. For the record, the six I haven’t yet seen are as follows: Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena and 12 Years a Slave.
If I could fit just one more in, it would have to be 12 Years a Slave, which I think will be difficult to watch because of the subject matter, but is nevertheless important for many reasons, the least of which that it’s the movie most highly touted to sweep the Oscars.
When it comes to the Best Actor in a Leading Role, I saw Christian Bale’s performance in American Hustle, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. I didn’t see Bruce Dern in Nebraska, or Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.
The odds seem to favor actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as the one who will take home the statue for his role in 12 Years a Slave.
Over the top depictions
But, and I have digressed up to this point, my beef here is with The Wolf of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese, who is up for Best Director, screenwriter Terence Winter, who was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film, as well as DiCaprio, who admitted he tried to get “Wolf” made for many years, for how they chose to depict women in the film.
The movie is based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) and the uber hedonistic lifestyle he lived during the 1990s, while heading up what was at first a sleazy penny-stock sales scam targeting hard working people who couldn’t afford to lose their life savings.
By the time he was in his mid-twenties and literally swimming in the working folks’ money, Belfort had elevated his hard-sell tactics to include money laundering and stock manipulation, among what seemed like a laundry list of crimes.
He had also come to the attention of the FBI. The movie, categorizes as a black comedy, gleefully depicts Belfort’s tale as a hard- core drug and sex addict, and a mega hedonist who seems to have no soul.
One can only hope it was highly exaggerated.
To say that the sex scenes in the movie were over the top is an understatement.
To say that women were nothing more than sexual objects and props, is another.
In a more than 90-minute long montage, women are objectified, demeaned, abused and used. Their depiction is not flattering, or empowering. It is cringeworthy. No woman in the film serves a purpose other than to enhance Jordan’s story. No woman is given a voice, strong or otherwise. And that includes the depiction of Belfort’s mother, and two wives.
Scenes of full frontal nudity, women placed in demeaning and subservient positions, and more are so common that the viewer almost becomes immune. Almost. In one scene DiCaprio as Belfort, who sometimes narrates the film, explains his classification system for prostitutes, the lowest being women he and his band of merry men can line up - in the same room, of course - to “be with”, adding that after such an experience, he and the boys must ensure that they get a shot of penicillin.
The scene is depicted with full frontal, leg spreading nudity for the low ranking prostitute, and some rear nudity for the men standing around awaiting their turn.
In many scenes women are paraded, often in large, nude groups, and made into nothing more than sexual objects and props. And all for what? The only allegiance Belfort and his scummy band of brothers seem to have is to themselves, the all mighty dollar and mindless over consumption.
The film had no redeeming message, while the filmmaker and actors appear to have gotten caught up in a twisted game of one-upmanship in a bid to make each scene more offensive than the last.
Belfort had no ahh-haa moment, epiphany or remorse in the end, or if he did, Scorses chose not to show it.
He was just sorry when the gluttonous lifestyle came to an end.
For me, when the film came to an end, I felt like I needed to step into a decontamination chamber. Which got me thinking. Why did DiCaprio and Scorsese feel so strongly that this tale needed to be told?
And if they were going to tell it, why not tell it as a cautionary tale. That was not done.
The viewer, having just sat through almost three hours of debauchery, which had many viewers laughing, almost felt sorry for poor Jordan/Leo.
Which is just plain wrong.