Despite its three-hour running duration, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is his highest-grossing film. Yet it has skeptics who perceive movie as an extremely vulgar, frat boy dream that seems to exalt its amoral Wall Street stockbroker protagonist, Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).
Martin Scorsese was asked about his predilection for refusing to tell the audience how to feel about characters in a new GQ profile that paired Scorsese with Dune actor Timothée Chalamet, and he brought up the 2014 film.
“In the case of The Wolf of Wall Street, for example, I only learned the other day from an interviewer who said, ‘You’re not aware of the war [over] Wolf of Wall Street?,” he remarked. “So I asked, ‘What are you on about?’ ‘Well, there was a major screening of the film at Paramount for the reviewers in New York,’ they explained.
Credit – Mary Cybulski/Paramount Pictures
According to what I was informed, there were two camps: one that loved the photo and another that was outraged because I didn’t take a moral stance on Jordan Belfort. ‘Do you really need Martin Scorsese to tell you that that’s wrong?’ remarked one of the critics from the other group who enjoyed the film. Do you really need him to tell you that’s not right? He knows it’s not right.”
“Does that moralistic attitude bore you a bit now?” Chalamet inquired.
“It’s beyond boring, I think,” Scorsese said.
Indeed, such approaches appear to be a relic from the 1930s and 1940s Hays Code regulations, which commanded (among other things) that all illegal acts in movies be punished, not sympathetic, that the viewer be plainly told that immoral behaviour is wrong.
Credit – Paramount Pictures
Nonetheless, many reviews at the time condemned the picture for this reason. Several examples of negative reviews for the movie on “Top Critics” on Rotten Tomatoes include the following: “Movies shouldn’t provide moral instruction but the best incorporate competing philosophies,” as well as “Without a moral center, Wolf seems to revel in this cornucopia of bad behavior,” as well as “A veritable orgy of immorality, each scene making the same point only more and more outrageously, the action edited with Scorsese’s usual manic exuberance but to oh-so-monotonous effect.”