Wolf of Wall Street takes ob­jec­ti­fying wo­men to new lows

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

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.

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