Film review, by Jason Day, of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), the based on real-life events corporate greed satire by director Martin Scorsese, based on the life of Jordan Belfort. Starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie.
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Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Di Caprio) rises from being a financial braggard to a wealthy stock-broker. He lives the high life, quite literally as he is frequently inebriated and loves taking drugs, his favoured poising being the hypnotic Methaqualone, or Quaaludes (ludes for short).
His office becomes the scene of incredible hedonism, with colleagues encouraged and rewarded to drink, take drugs and take part in orgiastic revelry with prostitutes and more.
He divorces one wife (Christine Ebersole) and marries a second (Margot Robbie), both of whom criticise his wayward lifestyle when the glamour of their prestige lives begins to pall.
Because of his dodgy dealings with criminals and general corruption the Feds, led by dogged Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), are on to him.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
I will not die sober!Jordan Bellfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) demands ‘ludes’ just before his luxury yacht sinks.
I rarely read other critics’ reviews of movies I am about to critique. I even try to avoid PR articles that aren’t reviews but contain reviews in them, for fear they may influence my own opinions.
But I could hardly side-step one opinion on this Scorsese epic of excess because it comes from the subject and source himself, Jordan Belfort.
He commented in The Guardian that his real-life debauched exploits were worse than what is depicted on screen. Amazing, because on-screen this is cinematic hedonism on a whole new level. The classification of this fuckedness has not been described yet, so finding out what we see here doesn’t touch the sides of what happened in real life left me gasping.
Where do I start?
Human darts with real dwarves, prostitutes of all types (the classy to the…not so picky) at all times of the day, financial accumulation and spending on a colossal scale, fraud, and embezzlement using a sweet English auntie…and this is before we talk about the drugs.
Because there are a LOT of drugs in The Wolf of Wall Street. If you ground up the film stock and snorted it from out of a hooker’s arse-piece, you’d be off your tits. Playing a modern-day, monetary Mephistopheles, Matthew McConaughey imparts a life lesson to a suitably astonished but excited DiCaprio that he “loves drugs” on his first day on Wall Street. DiCaprio is not only a quick study, he quickly outpaces the teacher.
In Di Caprio Scorsese deploys a drug-addled, modern-day Thackeryesque omnipotent narrator. Think Barry Lyndon and Becky Sharp as conjoined cokeheads in an extended chapter about how to live well on everything a year.
DiCaprio (in his fifth film with Scorsese) rarely sets a foot wrong with his performances and this is the pièce de résistance of his career (up to this point). Every trick and track of physical and verbal expression, every ounce of power in him as a performer is thrown into this one turn. It’s an enthralling, entrancing piece of acting but the stand-out sequence has got to be when he overdoses on ‘ludes’ and is left nearly quadriplegic at his country club. Mimicking his infant daughter’s movements across the floor to traverse a flight of stairs, I was left amazed. Try mimicking this yourself and see if you can match him.
Belfort fucks his wife (Margot Robbie) on a bed of dollar notes and they spill onto the floor. I couldn’t but be reminded of a less gorgeously filmed but still troubling sight from an earlier movie about our obsession with money. In Greed (1924) Trina (Zasu Pitts) spreads out her gold coins on a bed and jumps under the covers with them, fucking the only thing she truly loves.
In terms of being the best fuck head-on exhibition in this movie, he outclasses the others but happily slotting into second place (ahead of McConaughey) is Jonah Hill as his best pal and fellow ludes addict Donnie. He says: “If anyone’s going to fuck my cousin it’s gonna be me out of respect.”
With his fluorescent dentition and faux preppy boy look, Hill also scores what could prove to be his defining performance, a classier variant on the ‘stoner’ roles that made him famous.
Margot Robbie is fast becoming one of the most impressive actresses on the silver screen. She’s certainly the most consistently interesting and more than holds her own against such powerhouse machismo. The female lead here could have been a thankless role but she completely takes on the mantle of strong, intelligent, and opinionated Scorsese women such as Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas (1990) and Sharon Stone in Casino (1995).
With a good-looking production and a hard-working and starry supporting cast, all in all, this is a heady, sometimes hilarious, mix of all the bad things that seem so good on the big screen.
Cast and credits
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Producers: Riza Aziz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland, Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff.
Writer: Terence Winter.
Camera: Rodrigo Prieto.
Sets: Bob Shaw.
Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Christine Ebersole.