Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wolf of Wall Street - What Doesn't Kill You Makes You American.

This movie is America. From our fascist tendencies, to what makes us tick. To what makes us sad and repellant. Perhaps also to what makes us lovable and attractive.  It is all here, in a little of under 3 hours, a front row seat to the modern American psyche.

Is this parody, satire, or is it just propaganda? The lines blur. That's kind of the point. We have become a caricature of ourselves. 

This is not a moral tale - of the excesses of greed and addiction - for that would have been another lesser and more obvious film. Rather, a light shines on us, all of us, both the wolves and the sheep. And when looked at with a certain detachment, there is a certain humor in the absurdity of it all. 

There is a void. We all fill it with different things - if not greed, than god, or hyper stimulation or work or family or charity. Or perhaps we ignore it. There is an anxiety about the human condition that is true. This film, in not judging, in observing the pathology, incriminates everyone. It is the first film that is not just an indictment of the supposed wrong doers - but equally the society that spawns, encourages and thrives on them - and the victims themselves for their naiveté in believing in short-cuts along with the greed to get rich quick. 

And we laugh (this is a raucously funny film). Neuroscientists say laughter is a result of fear. When a fear feels imminent though not realized, and we feel assured of our safety, we release laughter, a relief, a spontaneous burst of joy. There is so much darkness here at the edge of this abyss, this film, yet we feel safe within it, even as the horror unfolds. Why? Because it's so exciting. Makes you feel so good. This way of life provides meaning and purpose to an otherwise drab existence. It's not about the money. This movie is an ode to an amoral vitality that we all worship in America. Fuck yeah!     

Jordan Belfourt, the protagonist, played to newfound majestic heights by Leonardo DiCaprio, may be a pathetic, drug addicted and exploiter of innocence - but he is alive in the arena. You are proud, repelled, awed, disgusted, attracted by him. The complex and contradictory feelings he evokes are exactly how most of us feel towards America. I am glad somebody finally captured it. And no surprise it's Marty, who has reached a new pinnacle in his film making.