The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Scorsese’s biography on Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) follows the rise and fall structure to a ‘t’, from a wide-eyed kid in the 80s to his fall as crime, corruption and FBI investigations take their toll. However, unlike his 1990’s masterpiece Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street is epic only in runtime, clocking in at around 3 hours.
Both films concern anti-heroes but Jordan Belfort is no wise-guy and certainly no Henry Hill, his character is so loathsome and unlikeable that there is no sympathy to be found for a stockbroker whose mantra is to ‘f**k the client’ as a means to satisfy his insatiable greed. There is no pathway into the film, a disconnect exists due to the frankly disgusting behaviour and attitudes of the protagonist Belfort and so Wolf never really takes off.
Scorsese drenches the film in comedy and black humour, Wolf is often very funny, to help get his message of ‘a cautionary tale’ onto the screen and ramp up the entertainment, but it is this abundance of comedy, sex and drugs and general repetitive exuberance in the methods that clouds the message of wrongdoing. There is little synchronisation between the methods and the desired end result that Scorsese envisioned, the sheer sliminess of the Belfort character doesn’t help and one suspects DiCaprio was ideal for this role so to make the character more appealing and likeable for a global audience; but even the brilliance of DiCaprio does not help to generate any sympathy.
Despite the clouded message, the supporting performances are fantastic, Matthew McConaughey’s all too brief role is memorable as a wiser, older stockbroker who imparts his wisdom on a young and impressionable Belfort. Jonah Hill, as his best friend and business partner Donnie Azoff – just as deluded as Belfort, but with glistening white teeth – is excellent and builds on his promise shown in Moneyball, and of course Belfort’s glamourous trophy wife Naomi, who is lively in her big break opposite the veteran DiCaprio.
Parts of Wolf work well, the unusually patient and reserved direction from Scorsese and stable camerawork functions fine as DiCaprio takes the centre stage. The whole never ties together though due to a detachment between the message and depiction as well as an anti-hero who demands and deserves nothing but an apathetic treatment from the audience; a 3 hour biography with such a repulsive character certainly becomes tiresome.