I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Wolf Of Wall Street but was enticed by its flashy trailer and multitude of five star reviews, with the ever-appealing presence of Leonardo DiCaprio an added bonus.
As it turns out, the film is an exciting and surprisingly thoughtful, though unsubtle, look at the excesses of stockbrokers in the 80s.
It has been criticised by many recently for being “douche porn” and bigging up this drug, sex and fraud-filled lifestyle, but it is actually doing the opposite.
Jordan Belfort, the founder of sleazy firm Stratton Oakmont played by DiCaprio, is at no point truly happy. He constantly surrounds himself with women, is addicted to drugs, is only one small step ahead of the FBI and struggles to maintain a connection with either of his wives.
Belfort displays some absolutely disgusting behaviour and it is not as repelling to watch as some may think but it does clearly decry the way he lives. It all leads up to a huge downfall and the value of what he’s got is always undermined when we see him in those moments alone struggling to get a drug fix or confused about what he’s just done.
DiCaprio was absolutely brilliant in the starring role, and there are surely few others that could have carried a three hour film like he did. He is on screen the vast majority of the time and also has narrative voiceovers, but the way he seems fully committed to being this sleazy, arrogant type makes him inherently watchable.
Other performances helped – Jonah Hill was the funniest I’ve ever seen him as Belfort’s right hand man, Matthew McConaughey continued his current fantastic run of films that mark his “McConaissance”, and Margot Robbie provided a strong woman (Belfort’s second wife) who knew what he got up to but reached the point where she just needed to look after herself and her children.
The look of the film was also fantastic and really suited the OTT style of the story. Scorsese used vivid colours and shots to make the world seem even more like a ridiculous dream and some sequences were particularly memorable, especially the time Belfort tried to drive less than a mile home when he could barely walk from drugs, and we see a flashback five minutes later of what really happened.
The use of music was also inspired, with little hip-hop as implied by the trailer but instead subtle use of jazz and topical 90s music, with complete juxtapositions created at different times with The Lemonheads’ rock version of Mrs Robinson and Purcell alongside the debauchery at certain times of increased risk.
Obviously some audiences will be offended by the liberal flaunting of naked women and drugs in particular, but if you get to the end of the film (and it doesn’t feel as long as three hours sounds) then you know that this lifestyle has pretty disastrous outcomes and it is never suggested that the main characters are happy.
Scorsese hasn’t made this up to be cruel to women – this all (or almost all) happened in real life, so if you’re going to be angry with anyone it should be Belfort and co., not Scorsese, DiCaprio et al., for they have made a truly admirable and exciting film.