The first 2 hours of The Wolf of Wall Street are arguably the best American filmmaking I have seen in the past ten years. Director Martin Scorsese and writer Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) have crafted a spectacularly witty and amusing exposé based on the real life criminal escapades of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort. With a completely dedicated cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio (in his fifth collaboration with the director), Jonah Hill and Australian rising starlet Margot Robbie, this sprawling confessional is all about money, drugs, hookers and excess. Did I say that the film is all about excess?
Through a mixture of voice over, dialogue and direct conversation to the audience, DiCaprio shines as ambitious penny stockbroker Belfort. After his Oscar nominated turn in Moneyball, Jonah Hill proves once again that he is capable of so much more than gross out comedies with his portrayal of number one disciple Donnie Azoff, complete with false teeth and bad hair (and reportedly working for minimum wage). As Belfort’s second wife, Margot Robbie sports a flawless Brooklyn accent in a revealing performance which has already introduced her to the Hollywood A leagues. And look out for Matthew McConaughey, who seemingly can do no wrong at the moment, in a show stealing cameo as Belfort’s first Wall Street mentor, Mark Hanna.
Excess is the name of the game. Dwarf throwing, cocaine, alcohol, quaaludes and orgies are all depicted as part of Belfort’s everyday life in the nineties, the latter being featured perhaps a few too many times. I’m sure part of this expression of excess is the 3 hour running time. I experienced The Wolf of Wall Street with a packed preview audience who howled along with every outrageous moment for the first 2 hours. By the third bum numbing hour, the crowd was noticeably quieter as fatigue set in. Excess is exhausting. My advice is to take a packed lunch and move around regularly to prevent pressure sores and DVTs.
Much has been made of the lack of remorse expressed by Belfort onscreen in the film. Indeed, we are never shown the victims of his deceptions. Nor do we really see the consequences of his crimes. I don’t have a problem with this. This is no morality tale. From the outset, it is clear that this is Belfort’s story. Scorsese and Winter have made the brilliant decision to give the audience enough credit to draw their own conclusions.
The Wolf of Wall Street deserves its place in Scorsese’s fine catalogue of work. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still in my top ten films at the end of the year. I highly recommend it.