The Wolf of Wall Street has seemingly had a target on its back for the last couple of months now. Even before the film was screened for the first time, Martin Scorsese’s account of real-life Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort was under fire over whether it would be finished in time for a 2013 Oscar-qualifying release, its long running time, and threat of a NC-17 rating. Now that the film is out, it’s a new type of judgement the film is receiving and leading actor Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t sitting quietly.Ever since the film started screening for critics and the industry, a stroke of controversy has beset The Wolf of Wall Street for its unflinching take on life of excess lived by its main character. Many critics have opined that the debauched proceedings that make up the bulk of its three hour running time, including the seemingly already infamous Quaalude overdose sequence, a game of midget tossing, and multiple scenes involving a prostitute and the use of cocaine. The graphic imagery of bare body parts and excessive drugs take a huge amount of screen time, with the viewer left to wonder of what the film may actually be thinking about the real life many whose tale is being told.
The real Belfort infamously led an excessive drug-laden lifestyle on top of swindling innocent people out of cash and spending twenty-two months in prison for his crimes. All the makings of a pleasant time at the movies with the family. While reviews for the film were generally positive, some have been divisive. Even more so are the audience reactions – theater pollers CinemaScore cited that The Wolf of Wall Street received a “C” grade from moviegoers, a harsh score from the generally more forgiving public who also gave considerably less commercially and critically favored movies like Ronin 47 and Grudge Match “B+” grades.
Now, DiCaprio has come forth with a statement regarding the critics of his latest effort.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a film, in a way, that is kind of bold and is taking a chance like that, and I think that anyone that thinks this is a celebration of Wall Street and this sort of hedonism — yes, the unique thing about Marty is that he doesn’t judge his characters. And that was something that you don’t quite understand while you’re making the movie, but he allows the freedom of this almost hypnotic, drug-infused, wild ride that these characters go on. And he allows you, as an audience — guilty or not — to enjoy in that ride without judging who these people are. Because ultimately, he keeps saying this: ‘Who am I to judge anybody?’ I mean ultimately I think if anyone watches this movie, at the end of Wolf of Wall Street, they’re going to see that we’re not at all condoning this behavior. In fact we’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about. Because, to me, this attitude of what these characters represent in this film are ultimately everything that’s wrong with the world we live in.”