Now, I’ve been looking forward to The Wolf of Wall Street for some time. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most consistently brilliant actors working today. The ongoing internet amusement over his lack of an Oscar (a subject on which I have partaken myself) is a testament to the injustice of it, and there is a sense, a real sense, that this at last could be his meal ticket.
The film itself has had criticism from some junctures on the basis that it glorifies the main character’s hedonistic behaviour. But given that it’s an adaptation of real events, there’s little which can be done surely. Besides, I don’t want my films to be a moralising headache. I can take my own messages, thank you very much.
Not to mention that this is Martin Scorsese we’re talking about. And The Wolf of Wall Street has been described as Wall Street meets Goodfellas. So…yeah
That’s actually a scarily accurate description of it, which is no bad thing at all. As anyone who has seen it will know, there was a narrative magic to Goodfellas, which Scorsese has been trying to recapture ever since. And with The Wolf of Wall Street, he actually seems to have done it.
The film follows Jordon Belfort (DiCaprio) and a group of friends (including Jonah Hill) set up a stock-brokerage to pedal financial scams. As they get stinking rich, Belfort tries to evade attentions of an FBI agent (Kyle Chandler) — hiding his money with the aid of a Swiss banker (Jean Dujardin) and Joanna Lumley — whilst keeping his excesses from his wife (Margot Robbie).
This is a long film, three hours, and it keeps up a frenetic pace — as befitting one in which the characters spend a good seventy percent of the time high on something or other. The drug of choice, aside from cocaine, is Quaaludes — a relic of the 1980s. And in the most excessive moments of his hedonism, it does go way over the top. For example, when Belfont overdoses on Quaaludes and loses control of his body. It is funny rather than harrowing though, the disintegration of an unlikeable man through slapstick.
DiCaprio’s performance was fantastic. He oscillated brilliantly between serious — if fraudulent — businessman and a hedonist on the very edge of oblivion. It was impossible to imagine anyone else with the range to portray Belfort, and DiCaprio revelled in it. If he doesn’t win his Oscar for this, then he will have been robbed, and even then only Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance in 12 Years a Slave even comes close.
I very much enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street. Contrary to its detractors, it did take seriously the message behind the story. Jordan Belfort did get his comeupance at the end of the film, and if that didn’t feel like enough then perhaps that says something in of itself. And at its core it was an entertaining feature. Belfort is unlikeable, but he is inherently watchable.
Whether time will turn The Wolf of Wall Street into a classic of the same magnitude as its spiritual relative Goodfellas. But for now, for me, it was as near as a masterpiece.