I came to Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Wolf Of Wall Street on Blu-ray rather than in the cinema so there was already a fair amount of baggage coming along with it as I hit play – thankfully I soon became wrapped up in the story and the baggage, for the most part, fell away.
Really it is the story here that is the star, as it really should be with any film, but sadly isn’t always. Ok, it’s a story that’s been told before – self-made man loses any sense of conscience and, inevitably, gets something of a comeuppance – but in the hands of renowned master like Scorsese, and with the ever charismatic DiCaprio in the lead role, the story is certainly one worth hearing again, here through the prism of Wall Street and stock brokering.
Based on real events, DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort and the film follows his rise and fall and, if I’m honest, throughout he comes across as a pretty horrible human being. There are a few moments where I thought, maybe I’ll side with this guy now, but every time he ends up doing something to maintain his level of awfulness. The rest of the main group of characters aren’t much better, aside from some funny moments (mostly coming from Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azof), generally they are not people I could empathise with or side with at any point.
What I would put it down to is something of the director. Across his career Scorsese has focused a lot of his work on painting portraits of different aspects of his home city, New York, and, in one way or another that is what The Wolf Of Wall Street does as well.
Here we see the side of the city in the late 1980s and 1990s that is far removed from the street level of many of Scorsese’s other films but does feature some of the same aspects. There is an element of organised crime (albeit here doing its best to not be crime) and a lone character who is out for no one but himself.
A couple of things did stick with me from what I’d heard before seeing the film; First was that Matthew McConaughey totally stole every scene he was in, which he did. Second was that the movie’s gender politics were far from healthy – again very much true, but this part of what made Belfort such an odious character.
The other thing was the excesses of the movie. At three hours it is, arguably, excessively long – though as I’ve said I didn’t feel it out stayed its welcome and so this excess very much worked in its favour. The other, more discussed, excess is in the depiction of sex of drugs, with many saying that it became dull and repetitive and some even saying pointless.
Maybe it’s a sign that I’m somewhat desensitized to some of these things, but I found that the sex and drugs depicted in The Wolf Of Wall Street were entirely appropriate for the movie and its story. Belfort’s life was, by his own admission, packed with such excesses for the period the movie focuses on and, according to some reports, the movie actually tones it down a bit.
Certainly this isn’t a family friendly, watered down, version of the story, but I thought the excess was far from as “bad” as some have claimed.
The Wolf Of Wall Street shows Scorsese and DiCaprio as joint auteurs, continuing their professional relationship (which has been going for the last decade or so) very well and, while the movie is flawed at times and doesn’t live up to some of the hype (good or bad), it is certainly still a good film and tackles a story we’ve heard before in a way that, for me, was certainly new and interesting – and with a great soundtrack running throughout, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes to Plastic Bertrand… I’m buying!
And well, just because, here’s some Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi: