The Wolf of Wall Street is gluttonous, over-indulgent, misogynistic, and coke-addled, much like its main character. Martin Scorsese’s rampant, viciously entertaining film runs 179 minutes and tells the story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young gun who goes to Wall St. in hopes of making a success out of his life. Lo and behold, he falls into the downward spiral that seems to epitomize many of these wealthy, selfish individuals: he sleeps with 5 or 6 prostitutes a week, does at least a few bumps of coke a day, treats himself to some Quaaludes when he has the chance, and throws some midgets around for good fun. He also participates in a three-way with his partner, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), alongside a woman that pretty much encapsulates the misogynistic dream of the “office whore” and goes into great detail about the three different types of prostitutes. Did I mention that the entire film’s a blast?
Now, measuring the success of the film does not rely on how entertaining you find it. It’s repulsive. But it’s artistically brilliant and alive. There’s rarely the visual symmetry that Scorsese relies on in many of his works, and he waits until the final half hour to really showcase the stripped nature of his direction. I’ll be damned, though, if this isn’t one of the most impressive features of the year, a film made by a 71-year old director that thematically runs with many of his greats, including the epics Goodfellas and Casino. Yet what distinguishes Wolf from those films is that this may be Scorsese’s funniest film he’s ever made, with Terence Winter’s script tearing apart the fabric of Wall Street and the individuals that control this nation’s wealth. This is one of the most striking examples of an individual hoping to attain the American Dream in modern film, coming full circle in the scenes after Belfort’s decline. The desire for so many Americans to achieve wealth may not be the best path one can take; Kyle Chandler’s happily average FBI agent seems to embody that perfectly.
Jordan Belfort believes in wealth. Greed is important to happiness but more importantly, it’s fun. Belfort has a manic, delusional mindset that DiCaprio perfectly transforms, particularly in many of his monologues that he delivers to energize his workers. This is another of Belfort’s excesses that the film indulges in itself. I think that’s one of the film’s shining points, even if it makes for a long watch; the movie moves briskly and assuredly through the repulsively bloated actions of its protagonist. DiCaprio delivers one of his finest performances in a role that demands him to be both showy and understated; primarily at home, in the quieter scenes (if you can even describe any of the film’s scenes as “quiet,” since practically every one involves sex, drugs, or money), him and Margot Robbie play off one another in effective ways. Robbie does the best she can with a limited role, and Hill and McConaughey shine in their supporting roles. This is a story of wealth and excess and how it leads to the destruction of self, and Scorsese captures that in a fun, crazy, and enjoyably intelligent film.
Grade: ★★★★½ (out of 5)