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Hammerle on... 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Robert Hammerle
January 15, 2014
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bob hammerle movie reviewsThe Wolf of Wall Street

The only way to accurately describe Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” is to refer to a comment made by an elderly woman (older than me!) sitting in my row in the theater. As the movie ended and I stood to leave, she looked up at me, smiled and said, “Nothing like seeing a soft porn movie on a Sunday!” To which I responded, laughingly, “It wasn’t soft, madam!”

Bawdy and lascivious, the film literally is consumed with drugs, sex but no rock and roll. Scorsese has made a stylish skin flick passing as an alleged sensational film.

Though there are a few superior performances in the film, aside from an FBI agent (played spot on by Kyle Chandler), there isn’t a character that you will remotely admire, much less like. Taking place in the early 1990s, it describes a large group of young Wall Street fringe players who freely violate the law in the interest of satisfying both pleasure and passion.

Any review has to start with the magnificent performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, playing the amoral, hateful Jordan Belfort. Based on a book written by this wretched soul, DiCaprio’s Belfort enters Wall Street with lofty ideals and a great marriage, both of which soon disappear. It is hard to name a better actor than DiCaprio, who follows up memorable performances in 2012’s “Django Unchained” and last year’s “The Great Gatsby.” Unfortunately, his role here as Belfort resembles the plantation owner he embraced in “Django,” the difference being that his employees on Wall Street replace the roles of slaves.

Ironically, one of the best scenes in the film is at the beginning involving Matthew McConaughey. In a cameo appearance, McConaughey’s Mark Hanna sets DiCaprio’s character on his destructive path as he describes the purpose of a Wall Street trader as nothing more than putting money in his own pocket. McConaughey also describes the importance of the daily use of vodka, cocaine and masturbation, which pretty much encompasses the rest of the film.

hammerle_wallstreet.jpgJonah Hill is an uninspired waste of time playing DiCaprio’s assistant, doing little more than joining his boss with the use of a large amount of drugs, principally Quaaludes. He also loves the company of prostitutes, a hobby that dominates their lives.

To be quite frank, the only other roles that hold your attention are played by Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler and Rob Reiner. Robbie is startlingly attractive, playing Belfort’s sultry and seductive second wife. Reiner appears as Max Belfort, Belfort’s anguished, supportive father. The “Meathead” is memorable.

In the end, as you watched Belfort and his second marriage disintegrate in a manic haze fueled by a love of Quaaludes, only one thing could have saved the film. More to the point, you desperately wanted to hear Eric Burton and The Animals singing their classic hit,

“We gotta get out of this place,

If it’s the last thing we ever do.

We gotta get out of this place.

Girl, there’s a better life

For me and you.” (1965)

Saving Mr. Banks

“Saving Mr. Banks” is a justified tribute to the legendary genius Walt Disney. Yet, while Tom Hanks does an expected wonderful job playing Disney, the warmth of the film flows from its dark side.

First and foremost, you need to be warned that this is not a family movie, much less a film for small children. If that seems a bit ironic, think of what Walt Disney did with his earliest films.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) is downright scary. “Bambi” leaves you bawling your eyes out when the little deer learns of his mother being shot to death by hunters. “Dumbo” (1941) is again heartwarming, but you are left nearly apoplectic as his trunk interacts with his mother’s as they are confined in separate cages. Finally, the trauma felt by the young boy in “Old Yeller” (1957), a kid forced to watch his father kill a beloved dog who became rabid after saving his life, is etched on my soul.

hammerle_banks.jpgThough “Saving Mr. Banks” is not an Oscar winner, it will likely have the same emotional impact. Just imagine when you rode Disney World’s Space Mountain for the first time.

As most of you know, the plot centers on Disney’s decade-long quest to have P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, consent to having her beloved book made into a Disney movie. Playing Mrs. Travers, and she does want to be called Mrs. Travers, Emma Thompson captures the entire movie from the first moment she appears on screen. Living in London and hating the thought of losing control of her book, she is both arrogant and dismissive, lacking anything that resembles a warm heart.

Nonetheless, she is also nearly broke and finally submits to flying to Los Angeles to at least talk to Disney and his staff. What follows is a wonderful story about her smug interaction with the film’s screenwriter and music arrangers. Let me just say that the exasperation felt by all was quite amusing.

As expected, “Saving Mr. Banks” is filled with some meaningful performances. Paul Giamatti shines as Ralph, Travers’ Disney chauffeur, and he becomes her only American friend. Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak are a hoot as the songwriting brothers, Richard and Robert Sherman. Travers wanted no music of any kind in the film, and watch them hide the lyrics for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”’

However, the backbone of the film is found when Travers repeatedly reflects on her life as a small child in Australia. Colin Farrell is pitch perfect as her father, Travers Goff, a wonderful father who was wrestling with an alcohol problem that was slowly killing him. Wounded as a child, Travers remains wounded as an adult.

In the end, Hanks’ Walt Disney finally learns what the audience discovers, namely the hidden reason for Mary Poppins descending with her umbrella in the first place. If you are searching for the meaning behind the title of this film, then take some tissue. You will need it.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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