To end our Oscar season, we’ll take a look at the one of the most polarizing films of year, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by the aforementioned Scorsese, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey. It is rated R strong sexual content, graphic nudity, heavy drug use, explicit language, and some violence throughout.
In Scorsese’s 3 hour epic, DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a Long Island stockbroker as he indulges in a life of corruption and indulgence that regularly features drugs, sex, and money. Belfort teams up with Donnie Azoff (Hill) and starts the brokerage firm Stratford-Oakmont. The company, using corrupt and illegal tactics, quickly grows in both size and relevance. However, with the FBI watching Belfort’s every move, he must find creative ways to cover his tracks and maintain his life of fortune and fun.
Thanks to Nic and Emma for being guest writers this week.
8 out of 10
The Mighty Roar. This is how Jordan Belfort describes the sound of his board room. It also happens to be how I would describe The Wolf of Wolf Street to someone who has not seen it. A Mighty Roar of a movie. It begins with Belfort tossing a Midget at a bulls-eye with dollar signs on it. We proceed to follow a pretty coked up Belfort through his life of extravagance and debauchery. All the while taking us back through how he made it to the top. When I first saw the trailer, I thought that it would be reminiscent of Inside Job, a wall street documentary about the financial crisis of 07-09. I was dead wrong. Unlike in his memoir, Belfort skips all of the wall street talk and moves straight to what people went to the theater to see: International crime, and Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonah Hill double teaming a secretary. And he delivers too. Money is stuffed into briefcases, rained on prostitutes, used to snort cocaine, thrown into wastebaskets, and taped to a mostly naked woman so that she can smuggle it across the border to Switzerland.
After reading the memoir, I understood one thing about Jordan Belfort. That he didn’t truly care about other people, especially women, because they were his playthings. Sometimes during a scene where a woman was yelling at him (the water splashing scene !!!) he would take that time, not to describe the argument but to describe their bodies and how horny he was. Scorsese decided that he would make the women in his life strong and calculating, as opposed to willing and objectified. At one point he agrees to give a female broker 100,000 dollars if she will shave her head in front of the whole board room. A marching band comes in and strippers deck the board halls. Belfort is looking proudly over his board room, and not looking at the girl who has already been given the money and looks like she is on the verge of tears. As she walks away from the shaver some people give her an understanding pat on the back, as if doing anything for Belfort’s money was routine. This is the opposite of Belfort’s T and A thoughts about his employees.
Leonardo DiCaprio really could not have done a better job at capturing all of the nuances that come with a character like Jordan. There are some times in the film where you can actually identify with his character, as a man who has lost himself. DiCaprio was supported by a surprisingly good performance by Jonah Hill as his equally greedy right hand man, Donnie Azoff. Margot Robbie not only feigns an awesome accent but held her own among bigger names, portraying Belfort’s wife as calculating and smart not just a bimbo. These performances were backed up by Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, and even a small cameo from Spike Jonze. All in all the amazing performances many of these actors gave, among other things, gave The Wolf of Wall Street the depth it has past just a memoir.
7 out of 10
Looking over the list of nominees for the Best Picture this year, there is no shortage of films with something to say. From Dallas Buyers Club’s thought-provoking treatment of the AIDS epidemic to the story of an old woman searching for the son taken from her by the Church presented in Philomena, the field is certainly rife with moral tales. Martin Scorsese in his latest film The Wolf of Wall Street, however, has little time for such sentiment. His protagonist Jordan Belfort, played adeptly by Leonardo DiCaprio, leads a life of debonair debauchery with remarkably few consequences. Belfort truly can have his Quaaludes and pop them too.
That is not to say, by any means, that the film is not enjoyable and indeed the first hour goes by in a flurry of excess and wonderment at the lifestyle Belfort and his fellow Wall Street newcomers live. It is certainly not for everyone but few movies in the past few years can claim to have constructed such an escapist ideal as this one has. Sure, there are a few moral speed bumps, prime among them that Belfort steals unsuspecting investors’ money and livelihood. But as Belfort says, he “spends it better anyway”, so it’s all okay really. But as the minutes stretch into hours, the Wolf’s legs seem to run out a bit, tired by the earlier frantic pace and one questions the necessity of some later scenes.
The obvious comparison to make would be to Scorsese’s earlier work Goodfellas as both track the legally questionable rise and fall of a handsome, enigmatic male plagued by demons. But where Goodfellas seemed continuously fresh throughout, Wolf gets somewhat stale. And where Scorsese did a masterful job of walking the moral tight rope with his last character which allowed him to portray how terrible some of the things his protagonist did were whilst maintaining sympathy for him, Belfort can be difficult to connect to.
But Belfort is not a hero, he is an anti-hero and DiCaprio embraces this fully. In doing so he certainly shines the brightest of all the cast and wholly deserves the award attention given to him. The rest of the cast is largely serviceable and little more. Margot Robbie however, playing Belfort’s second wife, does deserve a mention for her accurate portrayal of a feisty female without the coldness that is all too often characteristic of intelligent females in male-dominated films. And of course, Matthew McConaughey turns in a virtuous turn as Belfort’s mentor and provides the greatest moment of the entire film.
Some people will hate The Wolf of Wall Street. But most of these people were always going to hate it long before the first reel of film was shot. For the rest of us, it is an undeniably good film and provides fantastic entertainment for two hours. Sadly, the film is not two hours long and it is this final hour that makes what could have been a great film simply a good one.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%