The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

What's it about? Based on the exploits of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, the 'Wolf of Wall Street' who got filthy rich on dodgy dealing, fueling his success with drugs, hookers and wild parties along the way. Jealous? Me? Maybe a bit.


Is it any good? Absolutely. Scorsese is back in Goodfellas and Casino territory here, tracking the rise and fall of a criminal anti-hero with his trademark visual kinetics and accompanying soundtrack. While it's not quite as accomplished as those films, it is still a hugely entertaining ride and wholly recommended. It is a strong contender for the funniest film he has made, with several standout blackly comic sequences, as Belfort's wild excesses are presented, not least in the Quaaludes overdose sequence, which is hysterically funny (not that I condone that sort of behaviour, kids). Scorsese's on-going collaboration with DiCaprio also continues to bear fruit - he is really fantastic here, as he schmoozes, screams and screws his way maniacally through the film in a no-holds-barred performance. Around him, he is ably supported by Jonah Hill as Belfort's odious partner in crime and director Rob Reiner as his dad, with Matthew McConaughey also excellent in a small role as Belfort's mentor, who cuts through the financial lingo to explain succinctly just how stockbrokers make so much money. As with Goodfellas and Casino, Scorsese guides us into a dangerously seductive world, and we're guilty swept along for the ride, despite ourselves.

If there is a main criticism, it is that the movie's balance is a little skewed in that it shows that the good times (money, drugs, parties, sex) were greeeat, whereas the bad times (divorce, prison, domestic violence, drug addiction) - well, they weren't actually all that bad by the looks of things. Maybe they weren't for the self-centred Belfort, but that imbalance means the film ends up a cautionary boast, rather than a cautionary tale, which doesn't sit entirely easy with my high moral values. The depiction of women is also a little unbalanced. I've no doubt it reflects the callous attitude of Belfort and his cronies towards women, but it's a pity that Belfort's wife Naomi (the gorgeous Margot Robbie) doesn't have a bit more presence to offset the casual misogyny. Finally, I bow to no man in my love for a bit of gratuitous nudity, but the film could easily have trimmed out some of the raunchier scenes to reduce the running time or explore further Belfort's early motivations a bit more, before he launched himself into the big time. But no matter, this is Scorsese's best in years. The Wolf of Wall Street himself might be an obnoxious dickhead, but The Wolf of Wall Street is a very good, very funny film indeed.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Rave reviews for the most part and Oscar nominations for Picture, Scorsese, DiCaprio, Hill and Screenplay. Inevitably, however, accusations that it glamorized its subject arose, due in part to that imbalance I've discussed above and because Scorsese is careful not to finger-wag about his main character's actions. This is probably why stockbroker assholes like Belfort have cheered the film at screenings during the wilder moments, although few non-asshole viewers will come away thinking Belfort is anything but a twat. A very rich twat admittedly, but still a twat. It also drew criticism for not depicting the effect on the 'ordinary folk' that Belfort swindled. However, if anything, this is the key underlying message of the film. Belfort could never have got to where he did if those 'ordinary folk' weren't looking to get rich quick. Belfort might have taken greed for money to excess, but it was the smaller greed of others that let him do it. Instead of marveling/tut-tutting at Belfort's antics, perhaps we should be asking how access to such wealth would affect us individually, and what sort of behaviour we'd be prepared to indulge to keep that $1million salary? Hmmm? I'd say that sort of money might affect your morals too.

Anything else I should know? Belfort has a cameo in the movie. Even if you don't know what he looks like, you'll know it's him. For better or worse, he has a certain aura - interpret that any way you want. He's now a motivational speaker and, as you might expect, a very smooth, very charismatic talker. Here's an interview with him if you've some spare time - he tells you how to get rich. Seriously. I watched it and now I'm typing this, coked to the eyeballs, on my yacht in the Med. Now, where're those bitches at?


What does the Fonz think? I guess the point I'm trying to make, ladies and gentlemen, is that greed is Good Fellas.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous25/1/14

    loved it. very very funny, didn't expect it to be so funny. agreed its the best film he's made in years and DiCaprio is fantastic

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  2. Anonymous3/3/14

    I loved it also DiCaprio acting was amazing..really funny

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