The signature Scorsese-voice-over narration is delivered by broker Jordan Belfort(Leonardo DiCaprio) in The Wolf of Wall Street which guides the viewer through his incredible rise to wealth starting the in late 1980’s to his later fall. Through shady stock dealings and money laundering conducted by his raunchy, raucous, debauched company Belfort lives a life of scamming and adrenaline chasing. There isn’t a drug that Belfort doesn’t ingest with gusto and frightening frequency or a woman either. The narrative voice-over device recalls the final scene of Goodfellas in which Ray Lilotta breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience. That technique is employed in this film right off the bat, which leads to it not being as powerful. Perhaps the light treatment of the story is due to the nearly unbelievable amount of partying the brokers engage in. The film abounds with prostitutes and cocaine depicted with filthy abandon. If the framing wasn’t so well done some might dare call this smutty. The ensemble cast is very entertaining, especially the unexpected inclusion of Joanna Lumley who slyly winks at her Absolutely Fabulous past. This film has an ambiguous theme of greed being destructive all the while making it look like a(mostly) grand old time. Watch The Wolf of Wall Street to see DiCaprio; his performance after ingesting antique quaaludes is physical comedic dynamite.
During the holiday season certain films are standard viewing like A Christmas Story, Scrooged, and The Sound of Music. I enjoy these films very much but find myself drawn to two others in particular. Auntie Mame and Goodfellas are my holiday favorites not for festive reasons exactly, especially the latter, but for the satisfying repeat viewing factor. These two films could not be more dissimilar; one is the kooky tale of an eccentric, single woman who is unexpectedly left to care for her nephew and the other is one of the best gangster films ever made. Both of these films contain scenes during the Christmas season but neither are about the holiday. It is difficult to parse out why I like these films so much during this time of year, as they are not in the holiday genre as such, but that is why personal preference is so hard to explain. As my favorite film professor used to say, “No one cares what you like, that is subjective; what is your criteria for assessing a work?” In this case it really does come down to the comfort of watching something I know will be quality viewing, over and over again. The holidays are about warmth, happiness and rituals; these films are part of my tradition. May the winter holidays bring you good cheer, as these films do for me.
Auntie Mame (1958)