Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Money, money, money. Must be funny, in a rich man's world.

After spending several years in production hell, The Wolf of Wall Street has finally hit our cinema screens. Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese's tale of corruption, greed and excessive lifestyles, based on Jordan Belfort's book, is certainly attracting a lot of attention. Telling the true story of Jordan Belfort, a wealthy stockbroker with an extravagant lifestyle who finds himself caught up with the FBI due to his involvement in crime and corruption, has divided audiences and film critics around the world. With attacks on its use of animals, 'glamorisation' of drugs, portrayal of women and its excessive swearing, it has certainly caused controversy. However, some people absolutely adore it, including the Academy nominating it for a number of Oscars, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor.

If you can put aside everything that is controversial about it, you will find yourself on an enjoyable romp of excess, greed and money. Yes there was no real need for the chimpanzee on roller-skates, yes some people could easily see it as glamorising drugs, yes there are a lot of swear words and yes nearly all the women featured are portrayed as sex objects, but that is the point of the film. It is meant to shock! The Wolf of Wall Street is a portrayal of one man's relationship with money that is led by greed and a need for excess. Everything that happens on the screen happened in reality, according to Belfort's book, and so if Scorsese shied away from certain aspects such as the drug taking and the prostitutes, it would not be an accurate portrayal of Belfort's life. Thank God Scorsese said he would only direct the film if he had no limits to the content he produced, otherwise The Wolf of Wall Street would have ended up being 'The Pussycat of Wall Street' rated 15 and lacking truth and the essential element of shock.

It certainly is not to everyone's taste and standing at three hours long in the UK, it is cut differently around the world, it is a long film to endure. However, it did not drag and although it could have easily been shorter, it's excessive length mirrors the excessive nature of the life of Belfort and his stockbroker friends. Importantly the film never judges the people it features and the lives they lead. Portraying their lifestyles exactly as they were and examining their downfalls, the film says this is how these people lived and this is what happened to them. There is no talk of 'victims' and what is right or wrong, as Belfort and his stockbroker friends never thought about these aspects. It leaves the audience to judge them, and so comments saying it glamorises their lifestyles are fair since the film never comments on it. However, the fact that all the people it features are dislikeable and the desired effect from an audience is shock, the film does appear to be mainly a criticism of their corruptness and their way of living.

From the first minute to the closing minute The Wolf of Wall Street is all about one man; Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort. Pretty much every second of the screen time features him either in shot or narrating events. Seeing as the film is his baby really, there was no other man to play the leading role. He perfectly embodies Belfort full of personality and charisma. However, he also shows the other sides to Belfort's character. For example, perhaps the best scene in the film sees Leonardo DiCaprio sprawling around on the ground helpless due to a delayed effect of some old drugs he took, which neatly contrasts his normally loud personality. As Belfort enters his fall we see DiCaprio becoming increasingly vulnerable, climaxing in a terrifying scene in his car with his daughter. Thankfully, he was nominated for the Oscar for best actor as, although he is unlikely to get it, at least he is being recognised for the great actor he is.

As usual with a Scorsese film the acting talent is very high, with a fabulous cast accompanying DiCaprio. Jonah Hill is great as Belfort's right hand man Donny, Kyle Chandler shines as the FBI agent Denham set to tackle Belfort and Matthew McConaughey is fabulous as Mark Hanna, a stockbroker who shows a young Belfort the ways of the corrupt stockbroking world. None of the female characters are well developed at all, they were essentially sex objects to the men the film focuses on, but Margot Robbie still gives a decent performance as Belfort's second wife Naomi. All the actors ensure their characters are loud, charismatic and overblown, fitting in well with the excessive style of the film and the lifestyles it portrays.

If you are looking for a deep examination of greed and corruption The Wolf of Wall Street is not for you. Although it does lack depth and comment, if you can see past everything that makes it so controversial you will be exhilaratingly entertained by a darkly humorous and shocking portrayal of the life of Jordan Belfort and his stockbrokers of Long Island. Never shying away from the truth and never afraid to shock, this film is not for everyone. However, the loud performances, the overblown visual style, the cracking soundtrack and the excessive nature, makes this film a piece of delirious entertainment that leaves it up to you to make the judgements. 

4/5 stars. Emily Murray.