Sex, Drugs, Stocks and Soul. A Review of Scorsese’s 2014 ‘Wolf of Wall Street’

Following an autobiographical tale of a narcissistic New York stock broker, this 3 hour orgy of indulgence and ambition sells Scorsese’s picture as a rags-to-riches tale of exaggerated anecdotes. But delve a little deeper and peel back the suits and ties, you’ll reveal a sexy, drug crazed, money obsessed life story of one of the greatest protagonists, fraudsters and businessmen in the modern day.

Personifying the madness of New York’s high earners in the 80’s, the film embellishes the growth and lives of Stratford-Oakmont stock brokers and the almost caricatured individuals behind its doors.

The performance itself has to be one of the most difficult, but perfectly executed Di Caprio has ever portrayed. Keeping an audience shocked, appalled, empathetic, amused and attentive for 130 minutes seems a pinch of salt to the 39 year old Californian, who seamlessly steps into the notorious shoes and embodies the madness and turmoil of Jordan Belfort himself.

Like a crazed metaphor of the entire industry of that decade, Belfort (Di Caprio) develops a taste for the high life, for drugs, for women, but most of all, for money. His greed and desires spiral to a peak where the only way is down, and we watch through gritted teeth as his world comes plummeting around him.

Ironically, the opening scene shows Belfort defining the desires he has for drugs; cocaine among others, but most of all, his utter addiction to the “biggest drug of all” – MONEY. “Enough of it will make you invincible” he states – a naïve and satirical quote to begin this tale of events.

The film, though focused on the intimate opinions of Di Caprio’s narration, is peppered with fantastic cameos and talented castings throughout. Most notably, the overweight and over-ambitious Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) who embraces the role of Belfort’s second hand man exceptionally. We follow the pair on their whirlwind incline into riches and the trials of loyalty and friendship as it all starts to go wrong. Azoff brings, not only the on-point comedic element expected of Jonah Hill, but also a deeper and more troubling tone of power and greed.

A gorgeous Margot Robbie, a gaunt looking Matthew McConaughey and the effortless English purr of Joana Lumley are also featured in the film, creating a cast as talented and well known as we would expect from such a director.

Criticisms for the picture are few and far between, however the strong element of sexism is apparent throughout. Mirroring the decade to a tee, the attitude towards women in the film is difficult to watch through post-millennium eyes. Belfort may be a chauvinist male lead, but that’s no reason for Scorsese to imitate. Apart from a few notable exceptions, the female cast of the film are predominantly wives, lovers, prostitutes or secretaries. This male dominated picture expresses not only a tale of power and riches, but also highlights the strong gender divide in 80’s business.

Genius script writing and the clever cutting of scenes creates a flow to the film which prevents us from becoming lost in the frenzy and fast paced plot. Though at times Belfort’s motivational speeches and copious sex parties become a little repetitive, the entire 3 hours are filled with relevant, extreme and even humorous visuals.

Overall, this fine combination of Scorsese and Di Caprio reflects why the pair work so well together. With clever scripting, unique and rebellious visuals and more ‘F words’ than Gordon Ramsay in a hot kitchen, the adult tone and explicit content mirrors the indulgence and extravagant lives of the Oakmont brokers themselves.  A must see for 2014, make sure you get a share of Wolf of Wall Street.


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