FILM REVIEW: The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

Despite clocking in at 3 hours, I would have been happy for The Wolf of Wall Street to keep going. It was a fascinating insight into the world of greed and excess, and it was funny as hell. Although I didn’t realise it until the end, Wolf is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (played here by Leonardo DiCaprio), fraudulent stockbroker and founder of Stratton Oakmont. I think I just assumed it was fictional because his life was just so ridiculous. There is definitely such a thing as having too much money. Reliance on hookers and drugs is testament to that. WOWS spans over a decade, from the mid-80s to the late 90s, however its themes relating to greed and the screwing over of the little guy are very relevant in today’s economic climate. To my relief there wasn’t too much focus on the details of the economic side of things (as that would have put me to sleep) – at one point Jordan begins to explain a concept to camera but then realises the viewer probably doesn’t understand and that it doesn’t matter. Thank you Scorsese!

Jordan Belfort is presented as a deeply flawed character. He cheats on his wife, screws over gullible clients, commits fraud, and is a drug addict. His employees engage in similarly questionable and disrespectful behaviour and are generally shown to be scum of the earth. However, no one is a straight villain and we see that even the biggest wankers have some heart… just. It is easy to see how Belfort inspired his employees and conned his clients: he was the ultimate salesman and his various motivational speeches depicted in the film were reminiscent of scenes from a cult.

Following on from his other brilliant recent films such as Hugo (2011), Shutter Island (2010) and The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese has made yet another fantastic film. The editing and cinematography choices effectively demonstrate the intensity of Belfort’s world and his drug-affected state of mind. The script, along with the reported willingness to let the actors improvise much of their dialogue is superb. Not to mention hilariously funny. Film snobs look down their noses at the fact Jonah Hill has, for the second time, been nominated for an Oscar. It’s because he’s a comical genius! And he is just one of many phenomenal performances here. Belfort’s whole entourage, many of whom aren’t particularly well-known actors, were extremely entertaining. Matthew McConaughey killed his short screen time. Margot Robbie was impressive but I couldn’t help but keep thinking about how awkward it would be for her parents to watch this film (given recent interviews she’s given about the matter). Then there’s JEAN DUJARDIN (you have to borderline-shout his name with a stern French accent for effect). All I can say about him is: please marry me! Such a charmer. And then there’s Leo. HOLY CRAP. HE IS INCREDIBLE! The scene where he overdoses on Quaaludes was legendary. It managed to be both disturbing and hilarious all at once.

JEAN DUJARDIN oozing French charm
JEAN DUJARDIN oozing French charm

WOWS has an R18+ rating here in Australia and for good reason. Much fuss has been made over the film breaking the world record of the most F-bombs in a film ever, with a final tally of 506. I braced myself for this as I’m not the hugest fan of constant swearing, but to be honest, I barely noticed it (although be warned: others might). The film depicted pretty atrocious treatment of women, and contained gratuitous sex, nudity and drug use. While I’m sure there will be people who will condemn the movie for this, I think it was necessary to accurately paint a picture of the lifestyle and was there to comment on, rather than approve of, the behaviour of power-hungry individuals. Most people will understand that the point of this movie is not merely that “money can get you laid”, but rather that greed is dangerous and destroys relationships, along with your mental state. Having said that, I think that the R18+ rating is warranted, considering that many teenage boys are sure to miss the point (and also really don’t need to be seeing a man snorting cocaine off a hooker’s butt). And so to the fathers who were (unsuccessfully) trying to sneak their teenage sons into this film as some sort of father-son bonding experience, I say: shame on you. Maybe you’d be better off spending that time teaching your sons about respect for women.

So if you’re over 18, and can handle swearing, nudity, and depictions (but not approval) of misogyny, this is a film well worth checking out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Personally, this is the best film I’ve seen in some time.

5 stars

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