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 The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.