The Wolf of Wall Street – A (Spoiler Free) Review

February 5, 2014 7:07 pm

Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor with an enviable catalogue of films behind him. From playing Johnny Depp’s autistic younger brother in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, to making up one half of William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet in 1996; the year after, DiCaprio reached international fame in Titanic, one of the highest grossing films of all time. He has been nominated four times for an Academy Award but he is yet to take one home. However, after seeing The Wolf of Wall Street last night: give that man a statue!

During his acceptance speech.

At the Golden Globes, DiCaprio walked away with Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy award for his performance in the 2014 film. Playing the founder of Stratton & Oakmont stockbroking firm, Jordan Belfort, Di Caprio leads Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the novel; written by the real-life, ambitious millionaire-turned-criminal. Jordan himself also makes a cameo in the outstanding three hour film.

The three hour tour-de-force of a film opens with a DiCaprio voice-over publicising the enviable life he has, one that he believes you want. The cars, the house, the clothes – and, strangely enough; a wife not averse to automobile fellatio. But he did not get this way through an inheritance or by accident – no, Belfort takes you through his rise from nobody to rich, to even richer. Matthew McConnaughey, who is the lead in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming science fiction film Interstellar, portrays Belfort’s first boss at a stockbroking firm, Mark Hanna. Hanna leaves an indelible mark on the 22 year old, declaring that the only way to do this job is to copiously consume drugs and women – “I jerk off twice a day, keeps me focused!”. Perhaps a nugget of career advice you would not expect to hear over lunch, or ever! It is this scene that McConnaughey’s acting work is so brilliant that you love and loathe him at the same time; a property that almost every character in this ensemble cast possesses. The ditty he hums sticks so stubbornly in your mind that you will find yourself humming it on your way out of the screen, beating your chest both to keep time and show that you are a warrior, just like them.

If money can’t buy you happiness, it certainly can buy a lot of other things.

Jonah Hill continues his string of impressive performances as Donny Azoff, Belfort’s right-hand man, and the on-screen chemistry between him and DiCaprio is certainly something to behold. You watch the two men change as the money and success multiply; inciting some of the incredible antics they get up to. In fact, all of Belfort’s cohorts buy into their lifestyles with zeal. With an approach to finance that demands everything and settles for nothing less – “I have been both rich and poor and I tell you that there is no nobility in poverty!” – an impassioned Belfort cries during one of his many rallying speeches to his brokers.

A commendable attitude in most situations; yet this does become their hubris as regulations and the authorities threaten to put an end to their charmed existences. The film is bereft of any moral stance, and whilst that has drawn criticism, it does benefit from being free of any polemic. It allows viewers to experience events without external prejudice, and follow the roller-coaster of support and investment often bestowed on the characters.

2014 is only 26 days old, but The Wolf of Wall Street is already a serious contender for film of the year., It has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor and Director. Terence Winter, creator of HBO’s hit Boardwalk Empire, is also nominated for Adapted Screenplay. Scorsese’s wish to make a ferocious film culminated in the most profanities spoken in cinema history (averaging at 3 per minute). A masterful depiction of financial malpractice that is self-referential, full of humour and really human, despite the incredulity of the circumstances, The Wolf of Wall Street is simply a must-see.

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  • Carson

    My question is — is this movie doing anything new? At this point, “white
    Wall Street conmen experience meteoric rise and disgraceful plummet, as
    accompanied by prostitutes and drugs; cause us to question our own
    social values” isn’t new ground to tread. In a year where we had some
    pretty cool and unusual things happening in mainstream cinema (an
    animated “princess” movie where the most important relationship was
    between two sisters, a space thriller whose face was a middle-aged
    woman, a high-grossing action movie starring a young woman, a sci-fi
    blockbuster where 2/3 leads were NOT white men, a female buddy-cop
    movie), this just seems….tired. And honestly, nothing in this review is
    making me think the movie is going to ask any questions that haven’t
    been asked a million times, in similar explorations. Pass, sorry.

  • Kwaku Osei-Afrifa

    It is the performance of the actors in the film that are worth your viewing. Often films like this are cautious and have a level of self-referential compromise for the sake of ticket receipts and approval or they step into pantomimic levels of shock without any real substance. This is a true story account given the bombastic nature it deserves and lets you consider anything you want in the film without the overriding polemic.

  • Jordan Pace

    DiCaprio was truly cheated of that Oscar…

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