Leonardo DiCaprio Addresses The Wolf Of Wall Street Criticism

Martin Scorsese has never shied away from telling stories about dark, damaged or even evil protagonists. Movies like Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Casino all center on characters who the audience witness doing terrible, terrible things. As a result, there are many who take moral issue with the films the director makes, and his most recent title, The Wolf of Wall Street, is no exception to that rule. According to star Leonardo DiCaprio, however, anybody who sees the feature simply as a glorification of ridiculous excess has "missed the boat entirely."

With The Wolf of Wall Street out in theaters now and getting a mixed reaction from both professional critics and fans, HitFix had the chance to sit down with the star and took the opportunity to ask him about the controversy surrounding the film. In it, DiCaprio plays real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who lives a life filled with drugs, sex and other forms of debauchery paid for by cheating people out of their money. The story does feature comeuppance and consequences for its leads, but the lifestyle is treated with a great deal of humor and fun energy. The actor admits that the audience is meant to enjoy the madness of Belfort's world from a non-judgmental point of view, but in reflection he doesn't see it as love-letter to horrible behavior. Said DiCaprio,

"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."

As I noted in my own review of film, one thing that I appreciated about The Wolf of Wall Street is the way in which Belfort's fourth wall-breaking narration always keeps the audience at an arms length and maintain an objective view point on the characters' behavior. As a big fan of the movie, I entirely agree with DiCaprio's view point, particularly the part about the movie being a wild ride. The films winds up stepping insanely far over the line so many times that it's practically impossible not to enjoy the over-the-topness of it all.

For those of you who have seen The Wolf of Wall Street, what do you think? Is the movie a glorification of a disturbingly excessive lifestyle, or do you agree with DiCaprio that at the end of the day we recognize Belfort as a villain? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.