Nominated for Best PictureThe Wolf of Wall Street, based on the autobiography of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who capitalized on money laundering and fraud, stars Leonardo DiCaprio in a manic performance as Belfort, and is directed by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, The Departed for which this oft nominated director won the Oscar). The scene where DiCaprio, almost decerebrate from excess quaaludes, is hysterical (Jerry Lewis couldn’t have done it better), and at the same time we are sickened by Belfort’s relentlessly heinous debauchery.
Were it not so hilariously farcical, the film would be too painful to watch. It is like a car wreck from which one cannot avert one’s eyes. What is mangled here is the better angels of our nature. This wolf is ravenous, rapacious. Additionally, there is the sickening awareness behind the humor of what is going on outside the movie theatre: the growing gap between haves and have nots widening, ever widening. This country’s new robber barons are on Wall Street and Belfort narrates for you how they do it. This movie is not about transformation. There is no real redemption, for Belfort or for the country. Deregulation and SEC’s failure to enforce allows human avarice to run amuck, and this true story disheartens. Likewise, the commodities traded here include women and I think ‘woe to the republic.’
The lure of drugs and sex and the power of money all too easily make us lose our bearings. I would like to imagine that perhaps people who fall off the edge into the abyss of avarice and gluttony never had any (bearings) to begin with, never knew fulfillment of any magnitude inside themselves and so sought it outside themselves, the bigger the inner hole, the bigger the need for external highs. But who among us would not be seduced?
I have this theory about drug addictions: In infancy and toddlerhood the brain is developing rapidly. Experiences of recognition and effectiveness and mutuality develop the parts of our brain that produce feel good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and endogenous opioids. Lack of such experiences leaves our brain deficient in the capacity to produce such chemicals. Then one day we stumble across alcohol or cocaine or marijuana and suddenly we feel something we’ve missed, normal, good. Who wouldn’t want to feel that way as often as possible?