When I first heard about The Wolf of Wall Street, knowing nothing about Jordan Belfort, I thought it would be a serious drama. Then I saw the first trailer and realised that it was a comedy. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can confirm that it is one of the funniest films I’ve seen recently and is a completely insane experience that pulls you right into the world of Jordan Belfort and doesn’t let you forget it.
The plot of the film is concerned with Jordan Belfort who, after experiencing Black Monday on his first day as a stockbroker, starts up his own firm of Stratton Oakmont and proceeds to indulge himself in as much sex and drugs as he can as he gets richer and richer until the FBI start looking at his firm. What I really like is that the film trusts you to know that Belfort is a complete scumbag and doesn’t shy away from all the disgusting things that his character does, especially by the end of the film whilst also incorporating a very relevant message which is essentially the polar opposite of the ending of Goodfellas. The film continuously shows that Belfort is getting away with what he is doing and it’s only through his own idiocy that the FBI even starts an investigation, a point made even clearer at the end of the film. I also really like the fact that, throughout the film, the actual business practices of Belfort are compared to those of companies like Goldman Sachs, made especially clear at the start by the behavior of Mark Hanna, and showing the whole corrupt nature of Wall Street whilst making it abundantly clear how illegal what Belfort is doing is, even to people like me who don’t understand anything about the stock market. I also like how the entire film is shown from Belfort’s point of view and that we don’t see the victims of his crimes. We know that he’s probably made a few people bankrupt but we don’t see what happens simply because Belfort didn’t care about his victims and in any case, showing the victims would feel a bit too heavy handed for the type of film this wants to be.
A lot of the reason for the success of the film is how excellent the cast is. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance to date as Belfort. He lets you know that Belfort is having so much fun doing all the debauched things he’s doing but at the same time never lets you forget just how cruel and insane his character is. There’s also this great sense of charm and confidence that he brings across as Belfort that helps you understand why so many people were duped by him in the first place. He also gets a lot of great physical comedy moments in the film with one sequence being one of the funniest scenes that’ll be in a film in a long time. Jonah Hill is also excellent as Donnie, who is a much crueler, more insane, less charming and stupider version of Belfort and goes all out in many scenes, at one point actually putting a live goldfish in his mouth. Margot Robbie gives a great performance as Belfort’s second wife Naomi and her performance helps underline a major part of Belfort’s psyche. In the first scene, Belfort puts Naomi in the same vein as one of his possessions, helping to show the deeply misogynistic views of Belfort throughout and as the film goes on and Belfort puts her through more and more reprehensible stuff, her performance gives across a great sense of fear of Belfort and her final scene in the film is perfectly acted. Actually, there’s a great thing that was part of my viewing experience when I saw the film. In an early scene with Robbie, she comes onto the screen virtually naked and someone in my screening, quite loudly, said “Oh My God” in a way like he’d just seen one of the greatest things in his life, just a funny little thing that happened in my screening. Anyway, back to the cast. There’s some great dramatic stuff from Kyle Chandler as FBI agent Patrick Denham, especially at the end of the film and the film makes great use in small parts of Joanna Lumley, Jean Dujardin, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau and especially Matthew McConaughey and Rob Reiner who steal every scene they’re in.
The technical side of the film is also excellent. Scorcese’s direction is top notch here, fully immersing the audience into the mindset of Jordan Belfort and showing everything that’s going through Belfort’s mind. This is seen excellently whenever any of the characters are on drugs, especially the quaalude scenes with the major one in the film being directed and edited perfectly, making great use of dodgy continuity to show what Belfort is seeing, plus the end of the scene contains the best use of a pop culture relic I’ve seen in a film in a long time. The use of music is excellent as well, with the different song choices Scorcese makes really fitting each scene. If there is a bad thing I can say about the technical side it’s that the film is a bit too long and some of the scenes of debauchery could have been cut out and it wouldn’t have had any major impact on the film.
Overall, The Wolf of Wall Street is a completely insane film. It takes full pleasure in shoving your face into all the debauched things that Belfort got up to and the cast is incredibly game for everything that happens in the film. At times the film does feel a bit too long but it is absolutely hilarious in many scenes and absolutely worth seeing.
My Rating: 4.5/5
By the way, this is the first film I’ve seen in which some people walked out, which happened about 15 minutes in at the first of the many wild sex parties in the film.