Review: The Wolf of Wall Street
Inspired by the “lifestyles of the rich and dysfunctional” true story of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who ran the enormously successful boiler room brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont until its tumultuous and infamous downfall in 1998. The film chronicles his short-lived, greedy rise to becoming the toast of Wall Street, to being charged with over 10 counts of securities and money-laundering fraud, and then settling into a life of acclaimed motivational speaker.
Martin Scorsese has assembled a superb wolf pack, led by his latest muse Leonardo DiCaprio and surrounded by the never-been-better Jonah Hill, and a multitude of cameo riches of directors including Spike Jonze, Rob Reiner, and Jon Favreau. His long-suffering wives are played by Broadway singer/actress Cristin Milioti and the sure-to-be talked about Australian actress Margot Robbie. The cast is rounded out by mentor Mark Hanna, played with cheeky gusto by Matthew McConaughey, FBI inspector Patrick Denham played by typecast Kyle Chandler, and Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Saurel played by Academy award winning actor Jean Dujardin.
Welcome to the jungle, where greed is good, but an insatiable appetite for greed is better. Here in the Wall Street jungle it is survival of the fittest and one must have a caveman-like mentality to thrive. Gordon Gekko’s civilized art auctions have vanished, as now everything and everyone are for sale to the highest bidder.
The Wolf of Wall Street opens with the nicknamed titular character (played with ferocious energy by Leonardo DiCaprio) brazenly showing off his unrivaled goods, from his “Miami Vice” white Lamborghini to his trophy Barbie doll wife (currently happily servicing him as he recklessly speeds down the street) to his lavish million-dollar mansion. One can’t help but recall that it familiarly mirrors James Franco’s “look at my shit” speech in this year’s Spring Breakers, which itself was a blatant nod to the self-congratulatory, yet insecure exclamations made by Jay Gatsby (interestingly enough, also brought to life on celluloid by DiCaprio this year). It seems the plight of the outsider (or immigrant, one might further note) who has illegally conned his way into society’s upper classes has been repeatedly explored on film this year. From the aforementioned characters to Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle, the struggles of the outsider have never been so prominently explored in any cinematic year. Yet it is Scorsese’s return to form that intoxicates the viewer and juicily makes one fully comprehend the hunger of the wolf/outsider to secure one’s place among the upper set.
At the outset of the film Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a small-time salesman with large ambitions. With his honest worldview, supportive wife (Cristin Milioti, in a laughable Cher wig and dowdy outfits), and cheap suits, he clearly does not belong in the big leagues on Wall Street. However a chance encounter at a swindling penny-stock boiler room (anchored by a hilarious cameo by director Spike Jonze) and a life altering chest-thumping speech by mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, still maintaing his gaunt Dallas Buyers Club image but easily stealing the movie in his limited screen time) quickly transforms Jordan into a ravenous embodiment of every man’s id. He ditches his understanding wife in favour of the drop-dead gorgeous blonde Naomi (Margot Robbie) and begins brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont with his steadfast Sancho Panza-like Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). In one sure-to-be buzzed-about scene, Jordan and Donnie take a number of valuable Quaaludes and hilariously go through the stages of being rip roaringly high. Soon enough, though, his appetites for drugs, prostitutes, and all things extravagant and materialistic take a tailspin crashing dive, after he is captured by FBI inspector Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).
Following up his film adaptation of Hugo, Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) have once again faithfully adapted a beloved book and brought it brilliantly to life (almost scene-for-scene in this particular case). At the ripe age of 71 it is remarkable that Scorsese is still churning out vivacious films like Wolf of Wall Street. With its addictive wild energy and saucy use of sex and nudity, one can even say that this is his septuagenarian life crisis film. If this were not his fifth collaboration with star Leonardo DiCaprio, one may even go further as to say that this is stunt casting, as the film often mirrors DiCaprio’s own personal “pussy posse” lifestyle. The film not only celebrates, but actively champions the use and abuse of women, which perhaps is a complaint of the inner workings of Wall Street, and not just the film itself. It seems in order to be successful one must embrace your inner Tarzan and swing for the top as hard and fast as you can.
Should You See It?
The film is sure to get word-of-mouth from males of all ages eager to wag their tongues (like the popular bug-eyed cartoon wolf) at the repeated scenes of nubile naked women performing innumerable sexual acts. Film fans and Scorsese enthusiasts are bound to find much to enjoy here as well.