Prepare to be totally immersed in a hyper-real, sex-soaked comedy fuelled by a toxic cocktail of drugs and alcohol. DiCaprio plays a cut throat New York stock broker driven by greed and excess…
Sometimes, two things just work together; they fit just right, like lazy Sunday afternoons and roast chicken dinners for instance, or a white plunge neck dress and rouge lipstick, undeniable pairings so perfect that the two objects alone couldn’t possess such a synergy. Cue Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio…a power pair so strong other Oscar nominees tremble in their wake.
The movie world has not been graced with such a collaboration since the dark psychiatric happenings on the shores of Shutter Island (2010). Five times Oscar nominated, The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the notorious real-life of stock-fraud turned motivational speaker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), depicts the innocence and enthusiasm of a money-hungry young trader in the vicious world of Wall Street to perfection. The charismatic, loveable, James Dean type rouge, with a devoted wife and hope for the future, or at least to begin with. As the plot darkens Belfort becomes unhinged from reality and perpetually high on cocaine and (the 80’s-legal) ‘Quaaludes’ drug, originally used for treating insomniac patients. Belfort’s descent into insanity frames a portrayal of the 7 deadliest sins; initially, a poor-mans envy of others’ status and wealth which then ignites Belfort’s relentless lust, gluttony and greed addiction in the build up to an explosive climax. At times, we see glimpses of the suave and sophistication DiCaprio famously injects, but more often Belfort oozes arrogance, growing less-lovable; yet in parallel you can’t help but feel increasing, intense admiration for the ruthless American.
Set in early 90’s America where girls had wild perms and the few female brokers who made their success in Wall Street wore dusty pink Channel tweed suits. The first real moment of hilarity is when new-kid-on-the-block Belfort is taken under his mentor, Hanna’s wing (Mathew McConaughey) during an expensive lunch. The term ‘lunch’ used lightly here as no food is actually consumed, rather potent cocktails and cocaine by Hanna, before engaging an innocent Belfort in a bizarre, fist-pumping chant as the audience laugh along with the awkwardness. Jonah Hill, who plays Belfort’s loyal right-hand man, Donnie, adds even more humour and accompanies Belfort to lavish $26,000 dollar dinners followed by regular visits to ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. Belfort continues to shock as he makes his move on the ever-graceful Joanna Lumley in a ‘glad I’m not watching this with my Granny’ kind of fashion. All Belfort needs to epitomise the filthy-rich-male cliché is a red Ferrari but I guess his white Lamborghini comes a very close second. Three hours long but never slack, pumped by a hedonistic energy throughout; narrated in-part by DiCaprio himself with over-confident justifications directly down the camera lense.
Controversial? Yes, of course…but to down-play these scenes would certainly defeat the entire point in my opinion. It is criticised by some for glamorising drug-usage and sex; however by the end of the film Belfort’s lifestyle is far from glamorised. Without this rise and fall there would not be a story at all.
Thrust into a reality so far from your own existence you can’t help but admire in a morbidly-fascinating kind of way. If you can look beyond the controversy and Belfort’s detrimental sexism, Scorsese is actually meticulously addressing issues of destructive late-20th century American capitalism that surely can’t be addressed without this limitless moral controversy that created it.
Best Quote: ‘I’ve been a rich man and I’ve been a poor man and I choose rich every ***** time’ Belfort (DiCaprio)
Watch Out: Eyes peeled for a not-so-subtle DiCaprio Titanic reference point