There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the glamourisation of the lavish lifestyle depicted in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which charts the true story of young and upcoming stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s rise, as he eventually becomes known as The Wolf (of Wall Street). To say that such Quaalude quaffing behaviour isn’t reveled in here would be an understatement – as we soon come to learn, this is a business that requires the constant consumption hookers and cocaine to survive – but the underlying theme of greedy self-interest is never lost in the process.
This lack of sentiment for the other 99% manifests itself in a number of ways. An early cameo by Matthew McConaughey, playing Belfort’s boss, tells us of how little importance the workings of the stock market really is – the critical part is the money to be made for those in charge. This is a great scene, and introduces the chest-thumping bravado which will continue to play a role throughout the rest of the film (a ritual which worked its way into the film as this is something that McConaughey does while on-set) as it is then appropriated by Belfort’s own company Stratton Oakmont. Then there is the internal monologue of Belfort, used previously by Scorsese to excellent effect in Goodfellas, which is constantly used to explain that all that matters is personal wealth – after all, Belfort is living in a country which treats everything as a commodity to be sold.
The contrast of this message with scenes of debauchery work really well in providing a work that does not come off as a forceful morality tale; it’s just too damn funny for that. The Wolf of Wall Street is filled to the brim with black humour, particular highlights include the reactions of Belfort and his side-kick Donnie smoking crack in a small room behind a bar together, as well as a later Quaalude-fuelled fight between the two. Credit really must be given to Leo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill for the all-out performances they’ve put in, DiCaprio particularly is on top-form here – it’s difficult to recall a performance of his which was so gleefully exuberant as it is here. Writer Terence Winter should also be commended for his script, there are so many quotable lines of dialogue present here that just when you think you’ve heard one that cannot be bettered, along comes the next.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a glorious work of cinema, one which I’ve seen twice this week and can’t wait to watch again. Wonderfully outrageous whilst always maintaining a social commentary, Scorsese and DiCaprio will have to create something extraordinary in future for this to be topped.