The wolf is Leonardo DiCaprio, and Leonardo DiCaprio is the wolf. The Wolf of Wall Street tells the remarkable true story of Jordan Belfort, a man who built his empire on selling worthless things and personified the materialistic excesses of Wall Street – in other words – the American dream.
Martin Scorsese is in fine form with his depiction of this farcical world, almost too ridiculous to believe. He invites the audience to be a fly on the wall while we watch the wolf rise from humble beginnings to become one of the biggest players, and then ultimately to witness his fall from ‘grace’. This film has come under fire for its glorification of what these people did, but I don’t buy that. This film tells it as it is, and it is society at large which should come under fire for allowing these people to be glorified, and to get away from it with relatively light punishments.
Then there are those who get the joke and are afraid that others won’t. These folks are, indeed, justified in their fears. I can easily imagine people watching and falling into the same mindset as Belfort, getting off on being surrounded by prostitutes and having their way with them, ogling all the naked girls who appear (and there are many) and really only coming away with the thought – “how do I do that?”, without any consideration for the damage that these people caused to people’s lives and to society as a whole. The light sentences that the perpetrators received for their transgressions further reinforces this desire to follow in their footsteps despite the many obvious downsides.
As a film, it flows surprisingly well despite its length. It engages the viewer and even breaks the fourth wall occasionally. Cinematically it is very well put-together, although obviously not on the level of Scorsese’s previous masterpieces. Some scenes are a little gratuitous, although making them longer than they should comfortably be may have been part of the point. The real Jordan Belfort even makes a cameo appearance near the end which was nice in a way, but also bad because it’s sort of rewarding him for his bad behaviour.
I quite enjoyed watching this film despite not really being able to sympathise with the lead character. It’s realism and the way it plays with the perception of the viewer are clever, and even though I failed to really connect emotionally with any of the lead characters, I was still drawn in to watch – in the way that one slows down to look at a car crash.
DiCaprio has been nominated for best actor, which I don’t think he will get, considering the strong competition. As an aside, I would like to see him in a role where he isn’t in a position to say “I’m the king of the world” at some point during the film (maybe I missed all his ‘good’ films). Aside from some surprisingly funny scenes of physical comedy, we don’t really get to realise his full acting potential. What I’m trying to say basically. Is whenever I see this guy in a movie, all I see is Leonardo DiCaprio. When I see someone like Gary Oldman in the Contender, or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, or Hook, I can’t see them through their characters, and if it wasn’t for the credits, I mightn’t even know that they were there.
This film should have been about two thirds it’s current length. If you’ve got time to burn, watch it, it’s good. But of all the contenders for best picture, it has the lowest quality-per-minute ratio, and probably won’t win best picture.