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Wednesday 24 July 2019

Wolf's world where the girls live to serve it up for the boys

Scorsese's latest film is a showcase for the pumped-up, over-plucked modern ideal female, writes Sarah Caden

Actress Margot Robbie attends the
Actress Margot Robbie attends the "The Wolf Of Wall Street" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 17, 2013 in New York City.

Sarah Caden

LAST week, a week after her male co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill were nominated for Oscars, 23-year-old Australian actress Margot Robbie attempted to explain why she agreed to do full-frontal nudity in Martin Scorsese's latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street.

"There are scripts I pick up and say, 'There's no reason why she's taking her clothes off, that's just stupid, it's just nudity for the sake of nudity'," she said. "That I do not agree with, ever. But when the nudity is warranted, I don't think there's anything shameful in that."

For the second time in 24 hours, having seen the film the night before, I felt sorry for Margot Robbie. Who can say if she really, really believes that?

Certainly, she has said in other interviews that she told her family first that there was no nudity demanded of her by the film and that she later told them her head had been computer-generated onto another actor's body. No sense of shame there, then. Also, she has said that her agent told her that if there was any director worth doing naked for, it was Scorsese, and this might be the more pertinent point.

To put on your CV that you've been in a Scorsese film is quite something, particularly when previous highlights include Neighbours and a role in the US air-travel drama, Pan-Am, which was axed before completing its first series. But to what end?

From the outside, it could appear that Robbie took the role of Jordan Belfort's sexy second wife because, basically, it was a chance to work with Scorsese. So the nudity was an issue she felt obliged to deny to her own family, but, she obviously reasoned that it was worth it. And that if she didn't take the role, then the only other roles were rampaging hooker, mother of the anti-hero, pure but ignored first wife of the anti-hero or the ball-breaking token female stockbroker. Further, there would be another young, pretty and ambitious actress on her heels, ready and waiting to take the opportunity. Which seems to me at least to render the makers of the film no better, really, than those whom they portray.

Women, in Jordan Belfort's world, were sex objects, walking waxed orifices. Should you require a crash course in modern intimate grooming, check out The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese's chronicle of the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort is a lot of things – overlong and repetitive among them – but it is also a showcase for the pumped-up and over-plucked modern ideal woman.

And before you bother arguing that Scorsese used the naked – in so many ways – women in the film to emphasise the extent to which greed corrupted the men on the trading floor, then don't bother.

We got that pretty early on, but the film then descended into a sort of pathetic, "Oooh, aren't they awful? Not sure? OK, here it is again." And, sure, the male characters came out of it as obscene monsters. But the male actors came out of it without having displayed whether their intimate waxing matched that of the women and, more importantly, with Oscar nominations.

In one conversation with his father – brilliantly played by Rob Reiner – Belfort explains how the modern girls are blessedly hairless "from the eyebrows" down. Jordan also tells his father that he wouldn't believe what the girls are willing to do these days, sexually, that they're in a whole different league than previous generations.

So, basically, where liberation has got us that we're willing to take everything – our bodies, our behaviour – further and further in order to be acceptable to the men.

She who dares, wins. She who bares, wins, as Margot Robbie might illustrate.

And the boys, for the most part, keep their kit on. We see Leonardo DiCaprio's bare behind twice, both times dimly lit. And the boys are the ones having the best time in the film. And, funnily enough, the boys are having the best careers outside the film.

The girls live to shave and serve. They served it up for Belfort and his wild boys and, as actresses, they serve it up for the movie industry. Sure, some nudity was required to get the last days of the Roman Empire message across, but, in real life, weren't they all naked when this was going on?

And, further, in a film that required some serious editing, some of the endlessly repetitive show of female skin could have been skipped.

The Wolf of Wall Street, which is based on his best-selling memoir, follows Jordan Belfort from his beginnings as a callow youth, to a corrupted master of the universe, to a convicted felon.

As his marriage to Margot Robbie's Naomi falls apart thanks to his drug use and philandering, she sits on the floor of their baby's nursery, spreads her legs and, knickerless, shows him what he will be denied from now on.

We don't see, but the two security guards do, watching via a nanny-spy camera. And Jordan knows they're watching, but Naomi doesn't. Until he tells her, at which point he turns to the camera, and laughs conspiratorially with the guards. "Women, eh? Look what they're willing to do," the shrugging laugh seems to say. Look indeed.

And if you think this is only the movies, think again. Transition year Irish girls are getting Brazilians. And the boys their age expect nothing else. And they call this liberation.

Irish Independent

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