In the film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko says, “The point is ladies and gentleman that greed, for a lack of a better word, is good.” No one understands this quote than Jordan Belfort. A stockbroker, who in the 1980s and 90s gained his fortunes by selling penny stocks to wealthy, middle and working class investors. Unlike Wall Street, which showed you the character of Gordon Gekko through the eyes of Bud Fox; Director, Martin Scorsese, approaches The Wolf of Wall Street through the character of Jordan Belfort by having Belfort himself tell his story. The result is an abashed, exciting, disgusting, exhausting, eye-opening and entertaining film about a loathsome man and his friends.
Wow, with The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese has arguably made his best film in years. One that finds the 71 year old legend back in his wheelhouse, dealing with loathsome characters and their addictions. Like many of Scorsese’s past characters, Jordan Belfort has quiet a few addictions: cocaine, quaaludes, sex, prostitutes, money, greed, other drugs, it really is an extensive list.
Many people have complained that the film glorifies the despicable lifestyle of it’s main characters but in reality it does not. Yes, Scorsese and writer Terrance Winter choose to centre the entire film from the point of view of Belfort. In doing so Scorsese allows us to decide what we think about these people. The ending of the film, especially the film’s final shot, enforces that idea.
It is probably the most revealing and accurate portrayal of the American dream I’ve seen in modern cinema. The film, while entertaining us, is also letting us know that deep down we all want to be like these guys. Maybe not exactly act like them but we want the wealth and we want the power. Even if we say that money will never change us, can we actually control that? No addict is ever in control of themselves when partaking in their addictions.
Humour is a big part of The Wolf of Wall Street. Many have complained, that because the events of the film actually transpired and that Jordan Belfort conned many people out of their livelihoods that the film’s humour celebrates him but I never felt like it did during the entire three hour runtime. Sure you laugh at these guys but Belfort is always painted as a degenerate. You’re laughing at these guys never with them. They don’t say a lot of genuinely funny things. Instead, you’re laughing at their stupidity, and the absolute bonkers situations they get into.
Scorsese knows these men are despicable. They’re no different than the mobsters, corrupt cops or pimps that have always made up Scorsese’s previous films. He knows how make us be entertained by these men, while also fearing them and being disgusted by them.
Just as Goodfellas introduced us to the world of mobsters and crime, The Wolf of Wall Street introduces us to the world of stockbrokers and their lifestyle. The only difference is the pacing. Remember the final 30 minutes of Goodfellas, where Henry Hill had this feeling of being watched, with the helicopter tailing him, that same pace and intensity is what The Wolf of Wall Street operates at. By the end, you feel exhausted by all that you’ve seen. Jordan Belfort lived like this whole life but at least he got to rest and recover from it, we don’t.
All of that cumulates to the film’s final act. It contains the same amount of coarse language, sex, a lot of cocaine and Jordan Belfort being his usual self. However, in this scene you probably wouldn’t laugh. No one at the theatre where I saw the film did. It is in this moment where you should realize that The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t want to pick sides. It is wholly against the behaviour of its characters. It just choses to present it all to you in an entertaining manner because if it was a biopic with a serious tone, then those three hours would be an excruciating experience. The pace of the film would drag, following these characters would be a lot harder and the film’s true statement would be lost.
Every single member of the cast is terrific. DiCaprio gets better with every film he does. He is fully committed to the role, completely diving into the character. Now a two-time Academy Award nominated actor, Jonah Hill, proves that he is much more than a comedic actor. That he can carry his own in a Scorsese film, earning him a nomination in the process. Margot Robbie gives a breakout performance. Hollywood and the world will be sure to notice her now. Her Brooklyn accent is pitch-perfect. Then you have Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, and everyone else also give stellar performances. All playing their parts pitch-perfectly.
Scorsese is a master-class filmmaker and even at 71, he made one of the best films of the year, maybe even in his career. I hope he never retires. With The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese returns to realm of the despicable. His use of music, camera shots, editing, etc, show a man who has not lost his touch, a man who tackles every films as if he were in the prime of his youth. More than ever, I am excited to see what he does next.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an assured film. It is made by people who know the story they want to tell and know the message they want to send. Yes, the content of the film can get in your face but it doesn’t shape the film’s ideology and it definitely doesn’t glamourize the lifestyle of its characters. Films like The Wolf of Wall Street are rare. They don’t want to be manipulative, they don’t want to convince you about anything. They just present the facts and you can interrupt the evidence any way you choose. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of 2013’s best films and Director Martin Scorsese’s best films in years.
Score: 9.5 out of 10