Sometimes, the fluff is everything

The Wolf of Wall Street is a phenomenal movie. It’s a scathing satire that eviscerates the culture of greed surrounding Wall Street in the most incisive way possible – by telling the truth. (Or one man’s retelling of the truth, slightly tweaked.) It’s an excellent movie, but when you really think about it, it’s not terribly original.

Here’s the underlying theme: scrappy young guy fights his way to the top by doing all manner of unscrupulous things, indulges too much in the lifestyle, gets caught, and ends up losing it all. We’ve all heard that story before, right? But The Wolf of Wall Street is not a great movie because of its underlying theme. It’s great because of everything else. It’s great because of all the stuff that has little to no bearing on the plot, but is just really funny to watch.

The shining example of this was when main character Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is so totally obliterated by ultra-quaaludes that he has to crawl down the steps of his country club, climb into his car, and somehow drive home when he’s so messed up he can’t speak properly. The scene was absolutely hilarious, but when you think about it, was it really relevant to the plot? No, it was not. That entire scene could have been cut and the film would have said essentially the same thing.

But it wouldn’t have been the same. Minimalism is fine, and it’s generally a good idea to strip out unnecessary fluff, but sometimes you have to leave in the pointless scenes because they’re so damn good. The plot might not have demanded Mr. DiCaprio writhe on the ground for so long, but damn if it wasn’t one of the best parts of the movie! It would have been a shame to see that same movie without it.

4 thoughts on “Sometimes, the fluff is everything

  1. Here’s the underlying theme: scrappy young guy fights his way to the top by doing all manner of unscrupulous things, indulges too much in the lifestyle, gets caught, and ends up losing it all. … The scene was absolutely hilarious, but when you think about it, was it really relevant to the plot? No, it was not. That entire scene could have been cut and the film would have said essentially the same thing.

    I haven’t seen the film, but from what you wrote, I question your assessment that it’s “irreverent” to the plot. Isn’t the situation clearly relevant to getting caught up in the “indulgent”, out of control lifestyle part of the plot? TBH, it struck me as simply consistent character development and detail (depth). You might even argue that it is plot advancement in terms of providing a clear example of how the character is sinking deeper and deeper into said lifestyle. Substance rather than “fluff”.

    In short, I agree with your sentiment, but not with your term of description. I have a hard time with you using the word “fluff” (consider its connotation) when what you seem to be describing is “detail” or perhaps “depth” (doesn’t Minimalism = bare minimum of required detail?). JMO, but I think a better way to describe your point (as I understand it) is “Sometimes, it’s all in the details.”

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    OT: Damn you! (jk) I’m now officially hooked on Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. Not only did I recently re-watch both seasons in marathon style. I also read current Eng TL for LN vol. 1-A, 1-B, 2-A and 3-A, AND your Season 2 prep post on RC – yes, ALL of it.

    I have some comments including possible corrections (99.9% of which pertain to Part II) to your RC Season 2 Prep/Guide, but TBH, it feels kind of weird to add a lengthy comment on RC 18 months after the last comment was made. Plus, it’s kind of TL:DR for a commentary post (about 1550 words as very rough draft). What’s your preference on this and sorry for the OT comment.

    • First of all, you should definitely see the film. It’s good stuff!

      Secondly, the indulgent lifestyle was already thoroughly established by this point in the film. Thoroughly. If it weren’t for the fact that the scene was so utterly entertaining, it would have been a waste of time. Yes, it has some bearing on the main character’s overall characterization and arc, but the plot basically grinds to a halt for 15 minutes while we have a good laugh at his expense. It was fluff, just very, very good fluff.

      As for yer Kyoukaisen point, in the future you can email such questions to me at stiltsoutloud(at)gmail(dot)com rather than commenting off topic in another post. I probably won’t make any corrections though, because it’s an old post that hardly anyone ever reads anymore and I have a book to finish anyway. As long as it’s close enough, it oughta be fine.

    • Thanks for the reply. If they already beat that point into that point into the ground, I can understand what you mean. At some point too much detail is indeed “fluff” as you put it. That’s one hurdle (IMO) an author must face. There’s a balance between giving sufficient detail with world building along with plot/character development while avoiding getting bogged down in minutia. Maybe that all corresponds to proper “pacing”.

      Not sure if this is “OT”, but curious if you have any public details, examples, etc. for your upcoming book. Must admit I’m a bit curious about it. 😀

      As for my Kyoukaisen comments, I’ll try to make them as concise as possible before submission. Your post is old, but certainly required a lot of hard work and time to create as well. Up to you what to do with my comments. Hopefully they will be of some use or at the least entertaining.

      • Email me when you post your comment, otherwise I probably won’t notice it. RandomC gets too many comments for me to notice every one.

        And yes, the balance between too much minutiae and not enough detail is very fine, and very fuzzy. Trust me, I’ve had my editors tell me I’ve tripped over it either way plenty of times so far, lol

        As for my book, I’m still being a little tight-lipped about the details because I’m not sure what actually will make it into the final version, but I’ll give you a little information, since you asked politely : ) It’s a fantasy adventure with plenty of magic, explosions, action, friendship, and a little romance. If I were to put it in (mostly) anime terms, it would be something like this:

        Slayers + Negima (manga) + Fairy Tail (manga) + Hataraku! Maou-sama + Fullmetal Alchemist + Kyoukaisen + Magi + a dash of Log Horizon & a heavy dose of Terry Pratchett.

        Something like that : )

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