Sex and drugs fill Scorsese’s latest offering.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a story of excess. Above all else, it is about one man’s seemingly endless greed and his drive to see that greed fulfilled. It’s also a damn good time. The film, which is based off American motivational speaker Jordan Belfort’s autobiography, follows the rise and fall of Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Belfort’s story begins on Wall Street where he learns the ropes of the stock market. He is quickly taken under the wing of Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), an eccentric senior broker at the firm. Hanna gives Belfort what would be one of his most valuable assets in his meteoric rise to prominence: drugs. The lessons that Belfort learns from Hanna on debauchery and opulence inform his decisions throughout his journey. When the stock market crashes in the mid-1990s, Belfort decides to strike out on his own, selling dime stocks (stocks of little value typically sold to people with little or no experience investing) and quickly goes from being an earnest, green-behind-the-ears stock broker to being a money-hungry, Quaalude-fuelled, sex-addicted, multi-millionaire.
The Wolf of Wall Street is over three hours of straight debauchery. Belfort is under the influence of multiple narcotics at once at any given moment throughout the film. At one point in his narration he talks about consuming enough drugs daily to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens; this is an exaggeration, of course, but one gets the picture. The film includes a fifteen-minute scene where the merits and mechanics of throwing midgets at a bullseye like lawn is discussed; on the night of Belfort’s bachelor party, he takes one hundred of his friends and as many prostitutes on a plane to Vegas in a self-described bacchanal. At times it’s too much to take in; that someone could be so medicated, so self-centred, so thoroughly despicable at all times to the degree that Belfort is, is absurd. The craziest thing about it is that most of the escapades shown in the movie either happened to the real Belfort or, at least, weren’t far off.
The acting in the film is tremendous. DiCaprio is awesome as Belfort. McConaughey, though he is only in the film for around ten minutes, is hysterical. Jonah Hill might have put out the best acting job of his career as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s right-hand-man and co-founder of Stratton-Oakmont (the brokerage firm with which Belfort makes his millions), yet again proving that he can do more than stoner comedies. All of these actors put out solid performances. The problem is that they all play greedy, irredeemable, conniving jerks and after a while it becomes very tiring. The Wolf of Wall Street offers a long look at men at the height of their depravity. It’s like any other Scorsese film, so long as you go in with the understanding the violence normally in his films has been substituted for sex and drugs. If you can stomach everything the film throws at you, you are in for a great time.