I finally understand why The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated in the Golden Globes’ ‘Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical’ category. Indeed, The Wolf of Wall Street is a gut-busting vulgar comedy that left my sides aching and mind reeling. It’s also a biographical film based on the true and rather excessive life of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort – and all this from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese!
Belfort is given life by Leonardo DiCaprio who, in one of his career’s best performances, imbues the substance and money-addicted criminal with the larger-than-life air of a Bond villain. Belfort is a mighty demagogue; he uses his gift of the gab to become filthy rich by committing securities fraud. He’s a ‘twisted version of Robin Hood, who robs from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers’.
This team of tricksters is a bizarre cult of personality behind Belfort in the form of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. Engaging in all manner of debaucheries – wild orgies of workplace sex and dwarf-tossing to name but a few – Stratton Oakmont is a veritable hive of scum and villainy. The decadence is so extreme that it becomes clear that such a lifestyle is untenable, and I feel this was Scorsese’s aim.
The Wolf of Wall Street satirises the lifestyle of Jordan Belfort. It exposes him, ridicules him and lays bare an immoral life that ultimately imploded under the weight of gross self-indulgence. Along for the ride is Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill in exceptional form – the Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod is well deserved), who shares and encourages in Belfort’s excess.
DiCaprio and Hill have great chemistry, igniting the screen whenever they’re together. A sequence involving a delayed drug effect is without question one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen on the silver screen, period. It’s a testament to these great actors and Scorsese’s ability as director that we can still grow to like these characters when if in real life most of us (I hope) wouldn’t want to touch them with a ten-foot pole.
It’s a fine balancing act that the film gets mostly right for its marathon 180-minute runtime. And yet The Wolf of Wall Street never feels like a slog. It’s briskly paced, and despite a couple of tonal inconsistencies and some minor odd cuts and edits, the entire piece is remarkably focussed. Credit must go the Scorsese, who undoubtedly remains one of the most skilled and important filmmakers of our time.
Not for the conservative or easily offended, The Wolf of Wall Street is a masterful satire of the life of securities fraudster Jordan Belfort.