The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) addresses the congregation.
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) addresses the congregation.

The Wolf of Wall St is every man’s wet dream; sex, drugs and a shit load of money. If that doesn’t sound appealing, the film would advise you to get a job at McDonald’s. Martin Scorsese’s latest movie delivers all that the trailer promises. It’s punchy, outrageous and bordering on glamorous, but The Wolf of Wall St shows little remorse. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the perverse church of Wall St. Please, kneel at the alter, but don’t repent your sins.

At the beginning of his career, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is every bit as wide-eyed as the audience. He catches the bus to Wall St, kisses his dowdy wife, Teresa (Cristin Milioti), goodbye and is introduced to the jerk offs like Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) ( who incidentally, recommends jerking off – at least ten times a day). Such is the wisdom of Wall Street. Sure enough the stock market crashes, but Jordan is intent on becoming a millionaire. He joins another firm, filled with small time hacks. He sells penny stocks with such integrity and charisma that you almost forget he is scamming working class customers out of life savings. With dollar signs in his eyes, Belfort starts his own faux-prestigious firm, Stratton Oakmont – ironically, its insignia a lion. Belfort and his band of merry salesmen grow the business until they hit Wall Street.  Jordan and his partners (mostly ex-weed dealers), namely his best friend, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), party hard. Belfort has an affair with and marries the beautiful blonde, Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie). They have children but Jordan still has no plans to slow down. At this point he is addicted to a barrage of drugs, regularly employs prostitutes and to top it all off, is the subject of an FBI investigation led by Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).   It is clear from the onset of the film that Belfort’s life will fall apart, but he sure goes out with a bang.

Any film concerning this subject matter is sure to be rampant with controversy. That is definitely the case for The Wolf of Wall Street. On face value this concerns nudity and explicit language. But what many critics highlight is the use of Jordan’s story for what is largely seen as entertainment. This is of valid concern. Stratton Oakmont appears to be a frat party attended by cult members – only on Wall Street. It’s a bunch of guys performing humiliating acts, all for the prospect of money. Lots of it. Although, Scorsese is not necessarily making a comment on the financial industry in general. The Wolf of Wall Street uses an unreliable narrator to create a black comedy. Kind of like American Psycho but no murdering. This in itself is significant. The fact that so many people can watch a movie about a man that scammed people of hundreds of millions of dollars is something to be noted. In 2014, Belfort still has to pay restitution. Despite multiple financial crises in recent history, viewers still want to be a part of that world. As Scorsese aptly points out, it is like a cult. Does this make a mockery of us all? Of an audience crammed into a cinema to watch the escapades of the people who are above the 1%? We can be taken aback by Belfort’s sermons, but in the end, we’re falling for it too. Only we’re the sad schmucks who paid to see it.

The Wolf of Wall Street comes across as a boys club movie, to indulge the young, hungry and stupid. I doubt it was Scorsese’s purpose to encourage viewers to connect with Belfort, god forbid, sympathise with him. It was obvious that Belfort was a charismatic guy, but I didn’t feel inspired by him. I felt like an audience. At no point did I hope for his success or eagerly await his downfall. I didn’t even spare a thought for Belfort’s victims. I didn’t particularly care about any characters in this movie. They were undeniably larger than life, but what do I care about a bunch of drug dealers who made it big? The Wolf of Wall Street was definitely created to make some money. It was a good movie, but I won’t bother watching it again. I did love the editing techniques. The way the movie cut from narrative, to informercials, to wedding tapes etc. was very effective. Almost reminiscent of playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Actually, DiCaprio’s voice overs reminded me of that as well. Leo led a strong ensemble who milked every moment of comedy and catastrophe to its full potential. Jonah Hill was fun, but I just saw Hill playing an exaggerated version of himself (think This is The End). It was great to see local actress, Margot Robbie hit the big screen again. She held her own among a thoroughly entertaining cast. All in all, the production value was excellent, but do I think The Wolf of Wall Street will have a lasting impact? No. The story was punchy, audacious and told with style. The Wolf of Wall Street was an effective means of entertainment but, in my opinion, offered little more.

In summary, The Wolf of Wall Street is decent. Come along for the ride, but don’t expect to learn anything. (I mean, you already knew that he was a filthy rich asshole, right? You don’t exactly learn much more.) It’s controversial only in it’s vast array of sex scenes, drug use and lack of remorse. But did the film ever promise any more? Ultimately, this was what limited the film and what will deny The Wolf of Wall Street any valuable place in film history.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): 9/10


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