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Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

January 22, 2014

Oscar season is upon us so that means I’m playing catch-up on what have been deemed the best films of the year. Conveniently enough most of the hottest prospects have only come out in the last 2-3 months (whattup Gravity, 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle et al). Who says the judges have short memories, eh? Released last week, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has been generating a lot of awards buzz with the veteran director’s film garnering a handful of Oscar nominations. Based on the autobiography of one-time stock broker Jordan Belfort, the film features a massive cast with standout performances from Leonardo di Caprio and Jonah Hill.

This film is relentless. Relentless in its depiction of greed and excess. Take it is a pure black comedy and it’s frequently hilarious. Digging any deeper under its shiny surface and it’s a rather depressing affair. It’s inevitable that a prick on such a colossal scale as Belfort will inevitably have his downfall, so unless you really get off on schadenfreude, it really is a pretty grim tale. Some reviews have accused the film of being morally bankrupt, but I’m not sure if this is an accusation that can be levied at the film’s makers. I don’t think there’s a responsibility here to make some kind of cautionary tale or to shine a spotlight on the uglier aspects of human nature. Di Caprio has stated that what drew him to Belfort’s tale in the first place was the unflinchingly honest nature of how he documented his excessive lifestyle. Scorsese can be applauded for adhering to this, and the film is defiant until the end much like Belfort himself.

I’m not sure if I can say I enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street. Granted, there are some phenomenal performances in there (even from unexpected sources such as directors Spike Jonze and Rob Reiner), and Scorsese hasn’t directed with this much fervour and energy since Goodfellas. Go and see it for yourself and figure it out. Maybe you’ll be disgusted by Belfort’s exploits, maybe you’ll be impressed. Ultimately I came away feeling a bit numb to it all.

7 white lines (don’t do it) / 10