Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. (Source: IMDb)
Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, has certainly caused a stir among the critical masses. On one hand, this tale of excess – both mental and physical – has been lauded in certain circles; it has earned a Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for DiCaprio and Hill respectively, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Oscars 2014. And then on the other hand, a number of dissenters have pilloried the movie for being misogynistic, vulgar, navel-gazing and ‘boring’ (last one being Mark Kermode, 2014).
I am not sure if this says something about my personality, but I found The Wolf of Wall Street and, more significantly, Jordan Belfort, immensely compelling. Even when he is acting his most debauched, there was a part of me that felt a modicum of fist-pumping machismo for the character. Perhaps it is my fondness of DiCaprio that I only strayed from the side of the protagonist once – during a scene with his daughter – yet that is not to take anything away from a performance that would in any other year be a dead-cert for Best Actor; unfortunately for Leo he is up against Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. The energy DiCaprio brings to the movie is nothing short of incredible. In the past, he always embodied his characters, but there was the ‘he was Jack in Titanic‘ aspect to his on-screen presence. It’s thanks to his talent and Scorsese’s direction in The Wolf of Wall Street, that I feel this Leo’s coming of age role, and now he can be considered as one of the modern greats. Turns from Jonah Hill, Naomi Lapaglia (in her first role), as well as Rob Reiner and Jon Favreau were all brilliant, and there was even a fantastic cameo from a certain favourite around here, Matthew McConaughey, as Belfort’s career role model, Mark Hanna.
At three hours long, one could expect oneself to go on a mental stroll, however the pace, biopic-nature and playful yet dark tone of the movie is very reminiscent of Goodfellas, a comparison which has undoubtedly been drawn, but is relevant nonetheless. There are scenes of cringeworthy humour, shocking drug misuse and abuse, and a lens that falls often on bare naked ladies (no, not the 1990s pop band). However, I don’t for one second feel that Scorsese’s camera is any way misogynistic; the excess of Belfort’s life is a literal orgy of naked flesh, drugs, and money, with one capitalist fist-pumping scene after another. Yet, even though there are some women in this movie that are tools for Belfort’s pleasure, I feel the leering ends up being at Belfort while he is of his face on drug cocktails (and more drastic these scenes become), and not at the breasts on screen; they are very matter of fact breasts, if you will.
The Wolf of Wall Street was a fantastically fun movie to watch. It ticked all my taboo boxes, one of which I didn’t even know I had, and albeit for one scene of genuine darkness and abyss-staring, it was a romp and a half. It won’t win any of the Oscars for which it is nominated, but in an ideal world, 12 Years would have been released this later this year and Leo would get the recognition he truly deserves.