The Wolf Of Wall Street goes for 180 minutes. That’s three hours! It’s three hours full of swearing, sex and drugs. As well as some things you’d never expect to see on the big screen in a film directed by Martin Scorsese and acted by Leonardo DiCaprio. I really had no idea what I was in for.
Immediately after the production company logos, you watch an ad from Stratton Oakmont, the company started by Jordan Belfort. I was initially confused if this was another movie company I had never heard, but soon realised it was laying a foundation of understanding for what was to come. The opening scenes that follow are colourful and punchy, jumping straight into the action, with Jordan (Leo) quickly breaking the fourth wall to narrate and explain his ‘memoir’.
Jordan Belfort, aka ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’, is a young, married man down on his luck in the job world. The first day he starts as a stock broker is the day of the Wall Street crash. His wife, Teresa (Cristin Milioti), encourages him to apply for another broker position on Long Island, where he quickly makes a name for himself and starts bringing in the big dollars. The fancy car grabs the attention of Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), who quits his job to work for Belfort. The two pair up to start their own company doing dodgy stock deals (read: stealing from investors), which becomes Stratton Oakmont and makes them, and many of the employees, multi-millionaires. Attracting FBI (Kyle Chandler) attention and later full-blown investigations, Jordan and Donnie party hard and live for the moment. Over and over again.
Martin Scorsese holds back nothing in The Wolf Of Wall Street, where drugs and nudity are as common a commodity as the money exchanging hands. It should be noted though, that despite the almost constant presence of naked women, and the ongoing sexual activity, there is not a naked man in sight! Gender inequality, anyone?
I appreciated the control over sense of space in The Wolf of Wall Street, with the Stratton Oakmont office scenes feeling crowded, contrasting Belfort’s personal adventure scenes which were open-ended and limitless (and lonely). The visual effects, in what I would have thought was a mostly natural film, are also astounding, as demonstrated in this brag reel.
Australian Margot Robbie is a stand out as Belfort’s second wife, Naomi. Her American accent never falters and her chemistry with Leo sizzles. I thought it would be difficult to find empathy in The Wolf Of Wall Street, when so much fuss is being made about the faceless victims (legitimate concern), but I felt for Naomi over and over as she tries to raise her children in the drug infused Belfort household. There are some powerful (and violent) scenes towards the end of the movie which really shocked me but attest to the unpredictability of Belfort while under the influence.
I was also surprised by Matthew McConaughey’s small role as Belfort’s early employer, Mark Hanna. McConaughey plays a convincing drug-adled stock broker and was almost unrecognisable in his character representation. I appreciated his performance equally alongside the many others who had much more screen time.
Including Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives one of his best performances and simply ‘is’ Jordan Belfort. After watching the movie, I immediately googled and watched some clips with the real Jordan Belfort. Leo had his mannerisms, his intonation and his character down pat. Slow motion hand clap for Leo.
Which brings me to the things that annoyed me about The Wolf of Wall Street. It was very long. Some parts could have been edited out in my opinion (maybe not to this extent). The slow motion Jonah Hill head shot which needed only build suspense for a few seconds lasted way too long. I literally got bored and my mind drifted to my washing during this time. The tiny sexcapades that kept interrupting the plot were ongoing and repetitive. There was a lot of sex going on, we get it. The constant reminder of how awesome drugs are. Great message, thanks guys. Yeah, I found it was obscene past the point of neccessity but then again, perhaps I’m not the target audience. With an R18+ rating in Australia, be prepared to show your ID and leave the kids at home.
Overall, The Wolf of Wall Street has a compelling ‘true’ story, with incredible performances and plenty of food for thought. I’m not sure that I’d ever watch it again, but I will read Jordan Belfort’s memoirs (and plenty of online articles about what really happened). As an audience, you won’t be asked to make judgement but to simply observe human nature when self-serving desire is prioritised. And when is human nature least boring? When plenty of money is involved.
The Wolf of Wall Street is showing in cinemas Australia-wide from 23 January, 2014.