“Is it worth paying for a ticket?”: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

711857-wolf_of_wall_street_ver3_xlgMartin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) is based on a memoir of the same name by prolific, filthy rich ex-criminal Jordan Belfort. The film follows the events of the book, starting with Jordan as a beginner stockbroker. He’s hoping to become successful on Wall Street, when all of a sudden the big stockmarket crash of 1987 occurs. After this setback, he starts working for a smaller firm that specialises in penny stock. He discovers that he can make huge profits using his powers of charm and charisma, and some very convincing lies – and the story escalates from there.

Scorsese has created a monster with this film. Not only is it causing a big moral outrage amongst audiences, it’s also roughly three hours long. However, it flows very well and makes good use of its time (we’ll discuss the moral outrage later). There wasn’t one moment where I thought about how much time had passed, or how much story was left to go. The film is told from Belfort’s perspective, and Leonardo DiCaprio is the perfect man for the role. I think it’s time for him to win an Oscar. His performance was simply amazing. Between his classier moments, and the moments where he is completely off his face on drugs, DiCaprio is so convincing that he seems to have taken on the identity of Belfort himself. When you watch an interview with Jordan Belfort and compare it with DiCaprio’s performance, you’ll be able to clearly see the level of commitment on display.

The supporting cast is also consistently great. Jonah Hill is amazing as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s best friend and partner in crime. The supporting actor race at the Oscars this year consists of some great performances, and I’m not sure he’ll get the award. But he absolutely deserves his nomination because not only is he hilarious (we know that already), he dealt with his character’s more dramatic or serious moments with an impressive amount of subtlety. Impressive is definitely the operative word for his performance in this film. Margot Robbie shines as Naomi, Belfort’s beautiful second wife. She has some seriously good acting skills and I think we’ll be seeing much more of her from here on out. Meanwhile, Matthew McConaughey continues his ‘McConaughssance‘ with his brief role as Belfort’s mentor at his first job. Even though he’s only there for a couple of moments, his performance is so memorable that you’ll think he’s in the film for much longer.

The cinematography is quite excellent, and although I noticed a number of editing issues, I felt the film’s visuals were constructed in a very immersive way. A sequence where Belfort teaches the employees of Stratton Oakmont how to sell stock to people is one example of the film’s interesting use of intercutting different moments to construct a meaningful whole out of the separate experiences of different characters. I have to admit that I’m not the hugest Scorsese fan, but I really enjoyed his interpretation of the source material. Often the use of inner monologue in his films makes me feel slightly awkward. In The Wolf of Wall Street, however, it seemed to work well.

wolf-of-wallstreet

This film is hilarious. Although it becomes more sober towards the final hour, the first two hours are jam-packed with laughs. DiCaprio and Hill’s bromance is obvious from the beginning. They have a lot of on-screen chemistry; so much so that when they have fun, you have fun.

However, the film is also kind of disgusting. Its treatment of women is deplorable. All of the characters are essentially horrible people and I can’t think of a single one that is redeemable. Anyone who calls $100 bills “fun coupons” is someone that I don’t want to have any involvement with. I was concerned about the lack of balance in the film – we’re never shown any of the victims of Belfort’s shady dealings. But at the same time, I was almost having too much fun to worry about them, and I know how bad that sounds. This film was the best fun I’ve had at the cinema in a long time.

Is The Wolf of Wall Street disgusting and horrible at its essence? Yes, because the characters are disgusting and horrible, and we’re stuck in this world with them. Does it present the characters’ actions as desirable or glamorous? Heck no. I think the film is often interpreted as advocating that lifestyle because it shows the story as it happens, without layering a “don’t try this at home, kids” tone over it. Anyone who would be motivated to try massive amounts of drugs after seeing Belfort enter the ‘cerebral palsy phase’ during a certain (hilarious) scene shouldn’t be allowed to leave the house. Same goes for anyone who thinks taking financial advantage of people might be a good idea after watching this film. Just stay inside, shut the curtains, and don’t make eye contact with anyone.

the-wolf-of-wall-street

Yes, Belfort constantly tells us why it’s acceptable for him to commit these crimes and generally do horrible things. But he’s not convincing you to do it as well. He’s showing an insight into his own process of rationalising and justifying his actions. He’s a dirtbag, but at least he’s honest about it. Many amazing blogs have written about this topic, but I’d like to direct you specifically to Sati’s fabulous review on her blog Cinematic Corner, where she elucidates her feelings on this issue in much more of a concrete and clear way than I ever could.

SPOILER ALERT – don’t read this bit if you haven’t seen the film yet!

I just wonder why no one is talking about the scene in this film where Belfort sexually assaults his wife. Spousal rape is an issue that people choose not to talk about for some reason. Unfortunately, this includes both general society and film reviewers. I wonder, if Belfort had chosen to sexually assault a random girl on the street, would there would be more discussion about it? There’s heaps of rhetoric flying around about the drug use, financial crime, and generally debauched behaviour. Everyone’s talking about the explicit sex scenes and nudity. Why is no one choosing to discuss the very significant issue of spousal rape? That’s where peoples’ moral outrage should be located, if anything. I’d definitely suggest reading this (NSFW-ly written) article about it.

Spoilers over! It’s safe to read now!

After The Wolf of Wall Street had ended and I’d been stuck inside Jordan Belfort’s world for three hours, I kind of felt like I was on drugs. I was also saying the F word a lot. This film gets inside your head. The characters and events in the film, as aforementioned, are genuinely horrible. But despite that, it’s a lot of fun too. Expect big laughs and more than a few shocking moments. This film is so worth watching in the cinema and I would argue that that’s where it’s best enjoyed.

Is it worth paying for a ticket?: Yes!
Watch the trailer here.

Watch this film at Amazon!

36 comments

  1. Good to hear it’s worth the ticket 🙂 I still haven’t seen this dammit!

    1. You have to see it! If I could summarise it in one sentence, it would be something like, “an excellent film about horrible people”.

      1. Nice! That sounds right up my alley 🙂

  2. Afternoon, great review, nice to see that you another person who enjoyed the film rather than slate it for some absurd reason. I thought this film was incredible and one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen since 12 Years a Slave came out (with Philomena & All Is Lost getting mentions too).

    The film is an adrenaline rush and features some of the most deplorable actions committed by anyone ever, however it is entertaining as hell thanks to its style and charisma and amazing cast. DiCaprio is SO good in this film that it unreal, he is mad and commits to the role so well that it is indeed Oscar-worthy. I think this is my favourite role for him.

    Time to talk SPOILERS a little. You mentioned the sexual assault on his wife, that was frigging awkward to watch and forgot about how questionable that was after I left the cinema. I WAY more shocked about that moment when Jordan was going to take the daughter away and he punched his wife in the stomach. I was like “FUCK ME! DID HE JUST DO THAT?” Dudes hitting women with force is something that is rarely shown in such a clear manner in films, but here everyone can see it and Jesus it was brutal. Such a quick scene, but it left one hell of an impact for me.

    1. Yeah! That was one of the most brutal moments in the film. Probably 80% of the cinema went “OOOoohhhhh” when the stomach-punch happened. You’re right, it’s rare for domestic violence to be shown so clearly. I reckon it’s often ‘glamourised’ (in a way) in film/television, with big threats and a dramatic lead-up to an event of physical abuse. The film showed DV as it often happens; through random, unpredictable acts of violence.

      I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet, since it still hasn’t been released here! But if it’s anything like this one in terms of general excellence, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it.

  3. Excellent piece. I still haven’t seen the film but I’ve been looking forward to it since reading so many positive reactions to it. It’s interesting that Scorsese is getting some criticism for leaving the victims of these crimes out, but he did a similar thing in Goodfellas and that’s become one of the all-time classics.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I’ve been thinking about the victims issue today. I wonder if people are getting up in arms about it because of the recent global financial crisis and the innumerable people it victimised world-wide. The days of organised crime might not be as fresh in peoples’ minds as the degradation of the economy, so financial crime might be taken a little more personally nowadays when it’s represented in the media. People might want to see themselves represented and have their side of the story told. That’s as far as my days’ worth of hypothetical analysis went!

  4. Great review. And agreed. A great film indeed (my personal favorite Scorcese ever).

    1. Thanks! I agree, I enjoyed this one way more than any of his other films.

  5. Good review Anna. It definitely is a long flick, but if you really do stick it out here, you’ll find yourself quite a happy camper. As did I.

    1. Thanks! I was initially daunted by the runtime but I honestly didn’t even notice the time when watching it. I suppose that’s the marker of a great film!

  6. Great review, this is a fun, entertaining movie with a stellar performance by DiCaprio. The theatre definitely reacted to when wifey got punched in the gut and laughed like crazy during the cerebral palsy scene … Totally worth paying for a ticket.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 Yeah, there was such a stark contrast between the hilarity and shock in this film. Plenty of both, which coupled with the stellar performances makes for an amazing film.

  7. It’s funny everyone is taking offence and saying Scorsese is glamourising her actions of these Wall Street morons, yet they say nothing about the thieves and murderers depicted in Goodfellas! That just goes to show that violence is so desensitised in films nowadays

    1. I had a big think about it today and was wondering whether people are hyper-sensitive to financial crime films due to the recent GFC. That’s really the only excuse I could muster for that kind of double standard!

  8. Nice job!! I’ll wait to see this when it comes out on VOD –

    1. I think you might like it, there’s approximately a million sets of boobs!

      1. HAHAHA!! Awesome!!

  9. Good review, Anna. Even I’m not a huge fan of Scorsese but ended up enjoying this film a lot. One of my favourite films of 2013 (which itself was a great year for movies)

    1. Thanks! 2013 certainly was a great year for films.

  10. Great review Anna. I liked this one. I was not as fond of it as you though. But I totally agree with you on the moral outrage. I cannot believe that people think the film is endorsing anything that it is showing when it is so plainly doing the opposite. You would have to misread the film totally to be outraged on that front. And yes, I found the sexual assault scene that you referred to exceptionally confronting. The more I think about it, the more troubling I find it.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I wonder if people were blinded by the flashy parties and good times, and couldn’t get past their initial rejection of that to see the clearly negative core of the film. That sexual assault scene was so confronting. The cinema was completely silent, you could have heard a pin drop. It was a complete change from the constant laughter of the first two hours. It definitely was a troubling scene, but at least we saw him get punished for his actions afterwards.

  11. Great review, I agree with you whole heartedly. On the spoiler alert issue i felt that she eventually gave in, which was to his loss as she wanted a divorce soon after, taking his sexual power from him. She became far more dominant and pitied him something we weren’t doing, taking that responsibility from us. I was thinking a lot of a similar scene from Marnie, which was far darker and more suggestive.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I could talk about this issue all day since sexual abuse counselling is my field of expertise. Thinking of the difference between coercion and consent, there seemed to be a lot more coercion going on in that scene as Naomi was so disgusted with him and understandably didn’t find him that attractive anymore. I’m not sure there was any room for consent in the situation, including mid-way through. What happened in that scene is a really common victim experience, where the individual will say or do anything to get the abuse over and done with almost as a survival mechanism. You’re right though, through that scene she almost introduced us to the idea of pitying him since he was assigned the hero-style role throughout the rest of the film. I just realised that that scene might have been the first time he was actually shown as receiving a punishment for his negative actions.

      Confession time: I actually haven’t seen Marnie. I need to rectify that immediately because I consider myself a Hitchcock fan!

      1. Yes that’s true, with all the power that Belfort has, or had over her he did overpower her, before she turned it to her favour. Its not something that most/any woman would do in that situation, took a lot of strength for her character to take hold of the situation.
        Definitely have to see Marnie even to get the reference which was far darker in tone.

  12. Excellent review! I had tons of fun with this film, glad to hear you did too. The performances were stellar and the directing was excellent. When Scorsese and DiCaprio get together you are always guaranteed to have something amazing coming.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I quite like Scorsese and DiCaprio’s work together as well, particularly The Departed. That was a great film.

  13. Really nice review. I swear I’m all alone on this one. I really didn’t care for this picture. I felt it hit the same note over and over and did practically nothing new with the characters. I knew who all of these people were within 10 minutes of seeing them. And the onslaught of debauchery just grew old. I know I’m on a deserted island.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 That’s 100% how I felt about American Hustle, so I know how you feel!

  14. What’s wrong with fun coupons? If I had so much money I’d call them this too 🙂 glad to read praise for Hill, he was great.

    Sex was a weapon for Naomi. It’s not like Jordan was forcing her, he was lying on top of her, dryhumping her, she could have easily throw him off the bed.. She didn’t look in pain, she looked bored. And then she told him to fuck her. I fail to see how it’s rape in any way, in fact it’s a little appalling to use this serious word in reference to this scene.

    1. Haha! Fun coupons. Maybe I’ll integrate it into my daily lexicon and see if it catches on. Just buying some milk with these fun coupons please.

      As for the sexual assault thing, it fits the definition of rape since it’s non-consensual sex. She’s hating it and repeatedly tells him no beforehand, but it happens anyway. I thought she looked shocked and disgusted, not bored. But I think what makes this scene somewhat difficult to interpret is because we see her saying no, and then it cuts to them having sex. We have no idea what happened between that, e.g. whether he was more forceful, or she did eventually surrender to him without force. It doesn’t look like a conventional rape scene which I think is what they were aiming for.

      I mentioned this in a previous comment – often victims will say or do anything during their experience to get it over and done with, and I think that’s what Naomi did. It sucks because that’s often a reason why rapists don’t get justice for their crime – “She told me to keep going”, and then people will argue that that’s consent. But it’s not consent if she’s saying yes when she’s already having sex against her will. It’s such a complex issue, made even more so when it happens between a husband and wife. But at least I’m glad this film brings up the discussion somewhat!

  15. Two things.

    1. McConaughssance should have been the need addition to the dictionary instead of selfie.

    2. The lack of the effect on Belford’s victims was done intentionally to demonstrate how much these men just don’t care. While a scene or two would have helped with the movie’s unjust moral ambiguity, not having it really hits how little empathy that lifestyle and mentality produces.

    1. Haha! I’m hoping to use the word McConaughssance in many future posts. Maybe in general life as well. That’s an interesting point regarding the lack of representation of the victims and I think you’re completely right. Why should the audience care about the victims if Belfort and the gang clearly don’t?

  16. […] But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out these reviews by: Literary Vittles and Film Grimoire […]

  17. […] of wallstreet is it worth watching wolves of wall street disgusting Yes, on both […]

  18. […] I look back and think of all the cinema experiences I’ve had during this past Oscars season, The Wolf of Wall Street stands out as exceptional. I just had so much fun laughing at all these horrible people and sharing […]

What do you think? Leave a comment here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: