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Klavan On The Culture

The Wolf of Wall Street: An Ad for Religion!

May 4th, 2014 - 9:26 am

Recently, I wrote a post in which I celebrated the success of faith-based films like God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real because such movies stand against an anti-religious climate of opinion that is based on nothing but prejudice. But I finally got the chance to watch Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and by my lights, this film — which begins with a stockbroker snorting coke out of a hooker’s orifices and then proceeds to get degraded — may be the best advertisement for the religious life to come out of Hollywood in years!

In outline, the film is almost a remake of Scorsese’s greatest work Goodfellas, only instead of rising and falling in the mob, Wall Street’s anti-hero Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) rises and falls in the stock-trading business.  Like Goodfellas, the film is based on a true story. And like Goodfellas, it lovingly portrays the joys of being the big man — the power, the money, the women, the drugs — as opposed to being an everyday shnook and loser like the rest of us.

But Goodfellas’ milieu contains its own self-criticism — we all know it’s wrong to be a gangster and while stabbing someone to death with a fountain pen may be amusing onscreen, most of us don’t really want to murder anyone or destroy a perfectly good fountain pen. Plus Goodfellas’ Henry Hill never rises much higher than suburban thug. But The Wolf of Wall Street’s crimes are bloodless. He’s just selling the pen, along with some crummy stocks; doing some money laundering and so on. And his success and wealth are so amazingly, outrageously huge, the babes so hot and plentiful, the excess so delicious that Belfort’s life stands as a perfectly good representation of at least one version of the American dream.

Top Rated Comments   
" Ordinary life is sad and meaningless ".

Never has a statement been less true. Raising a family, caring for elderly parents, going to work to put food on your table, all the, "ordinary ", aspects of everyday life are opportunities for holiness and blessing. Dignity comes in many forms and each and every day presents countless moments of sublime elevation. Only those who walk through life in spiritual blindness cannot see this fundamental truth.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is not dragged into everything. It is the race / class / sexual orientation replacement gospel that is dragged into everything. "Religion is a purely private matter!" Is another way of saying "shut up!", or to express the good liberal's view of religion and prayer, which is the same as the old view of homosexuality: tolerable, barely, as long it is done strictly by consenting adults behind closed door who hide the perversity in public. Anything else is "brainwashing children" and "eroding the separation of church and state", you know.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
My Father had some great successes in business, and some pretty bad times. Whether feast or famine, he always said the same things when people started comparing wealth:
How many steaks can you eat? How many Cadillacs can you drive?
When your self-respect comes from deep inside, enough is as good as a feast. His huge home on the water, his yacht, his nice cars and fancy restaurants, little by little he got tired of them all, and then he sold them, because they got to be more work than they were worth. In the end, he became the kind of guy who ate chicken hot dogs because they were "just as good" and they were cheap. He really hated waste, as he always had.
He still had his new Caddy. He still lived in a nice two bedroom condo on the Ocean.
Besides, he liked chicken hot dogs and generic yogurt that smelled like paint.
Now that I'm older, I find I cling to old things that work. I think I know where I learned that.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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Hearing that the "f" word was said 100's of time prevented me from ever wanting to see this movie. Can't the movie script writers come up with a vocabulary that expresses emotion without using it
for every third word? Even if you ignore the vulgarity, it's just distracting and off-putting. I refuse to watch any more Hollywood movies, I don't care how good the so-called "message" is. I'm always offended by something. And I'm not a churchgoing Christian. Just an older woman who can't believe what's happened to good taste. When Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture and people who otherwise seemed to me to be good, decent people said it was a great movie, I knew things had gone round the bend. As some British columnist said once: "I can't help but think some how we've taken a wrong turn!"
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I strongly disagree. What I saw was just a bunch of pornographic nonsense. And for that reason alone I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I agree with Plugged In Online on this one:

"Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is among the most bludgeoning—if not the most bludgeoning—films ever to be granted an R rating. Indeed, much has been made of the fact that it barely escaped an NC-17. It should not have. There is—ostensibly, theoretically—a cautionary tale about the perils of lust and greed woven into Jordan Belfort's story. But since the film concludes with him getting paid to give motivational speeches sort of soils that suggestion. That, and the fact that all along the way we're invited to cheer for this ruthlessly greedy, sexually predatory, chemically dependent, foul-mouthed and narcissistic antihero. Invited to want him to somehow escape the judgment he should assuredly face."

http://www.pluggedin.com/videos/2014/q1/wolf-of-wall-street.aspx
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I found it un-watchable.

After about the hundreth sex scene I was having issues following whatever plot there was, seriously doubting the whole premise of the thing, and went off to bed. The wife gutted it out, came in after the end saying it was horrible and pointless.

Scorsese hasn't had a decent film since Cape Fear.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was going to say Taxi Driver. Cape Fear was seriously lame remake.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
A minor quibble with an otherwise piercing set of observations: "Ordinary life" as Americans pursue it is most definitely not "drab and meaningless." Neither is Christianity a replacement for "ordinary life." Christian devotions illuminate and exalt "ordinary life," such that our challenges and responses while we linger beneath the veil of time become more meaningful, elements of a far broader and more significant vista.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
" Ordinary life is sad and meaningless ".

Never has a statement been less true. Raising a family, caring for elderly parents, going to work to put food on your table, all the, "ordinary ", aspects of everyday life are opportunities for holiness and blessing. Dignity comes in many forms and each and every day presents countless moments of sublime elevation. Only those who walk through life in spiritual blindness cannot see this fundamental truth.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am really tired of having religion dragged into everything. Whatever happened to religion being a very personal matter? Enough Bible thumping!
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
When was religion ever a personal matter? What we think as to why we are here, what is the point of life, what is right and wrong are all matters that affect others in our interactions, and it is generally appropriate to be upfront as to where we are coming from.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is not dragged into everything. It is the race / class / sexual orientation replacement gospel that is dragged into everything. "Religion is a purely private matter!" Is another way of saying "shut up!", or to express the good liberal's view of religion and prayer, which is the same as the old view of homosexuality: tolerable, barely, as long it is done strictly by consenting adults behind closed door who hide the perversity in public. Anything else is "brainwashing children" and "eroding the separation of church and state", you know.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Disagree this time. The characters *say*, and perhaps *believe*, money and power are all that matters, but clearly their hedonistic lives are supposed (and do) arouse disgust, not envy, in the audience. The movie does contain its own self criticism no less than "Goodfellas".
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Andrew, While I appreciate your viewpoint of movie as metaphor for life, I don't see many people having the same reaction to this movie or any movie. Life moves at such a rapid pace now, with so many things that absorb our attention, it's a wonder that anybody still has a brain to contemplate the deeper questions in life, much less act on them. Almost everyone is in a race to Hell not questioning why, nor thinking what will actually result if they get there. God has given all of us a conscience , an awareness of right and wrong and awareness of Him, if we but turn our thoughts inward and ponder how to live a life in accord with that conscience,and shut out at least part of the time Satan's carnival on Earth, designed to keep us absorbed until it is too late. And the pace is accelerating. Who in 1950 America would've thought by the 1990's we'd be killing unborn and partially born babies with state sanction using public funds even from those who call it murder and against God's law, that we'd be talking to our middle school kids about what oral sex was and why a President of the United States could perjure himself and get away demanding oral sex from a barely 21 y/o intern. or all the pornography on the internet and television and literature seemingly aimed at our youngest children without any public outcry, or that by simply labeling anyone a terrorist, even Americans, they can be killed by secret Presidential decree or locked up forever without trial or habeas corpus. And the list of outrages and depravities and loss of freedom grows like some metastasizing Sodom and Gomorrah. At one time, what would be called a normal adult would shun reading or watching or speaking about evil or depraved or deviant lifestyles, but today it is everywhere whether we like it or not and it is a corrosive acid eating away at our souls. It's way past time to roll it all back if it is not too late.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Q. Who in 1950 America would've thought by the 1990's we'd be killing unborn and partially born babies with state sanction using public funds...?

A. Margaret Sanger.
__________
Question Authority.   (Ask me anything.)
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Christ is already directing my life, so I'll skip this movie too.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly. I get close to God by praying and opening my Bible. Not by watching this garbage.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, that's what we need, a return to the Middle Ages.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, that's what we need, a return to anarchy and unrestrained paganism! See, my comment is now on the same level as yours. LongRangeSniper.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The governments of the world are working on your request. Be patient, it won't take long.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
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