In The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese introduces a colourful montage of wild yacht parties, public promiscuity and frequent cases of substance abuse, all to illustrate the merits of clever financial manipulations. At a dynamic pace, one witnesses the triumph and failure of the real-life notorious stockbroker Jordan Belfort. Despite the fact that Belfort’s success was largely based on his ability to make the most money from penny stocks, Scorsese chooses not to emphasize the audience’s attention on these financial details. Instead, a focus was laid on the character’s rather theatrical qualities, which enabled him to convince so many into buying the stocks.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives an enthusiastic and charismatic performance; undoubtedly distinguishable from his previous dramatic roles. At certain moments one may have been under the belief that DiCaprio’s highly stylized performance actually hyperbolized the degree to which stockbrokers engage in their daily telephone conversations. His excessive hand gestures, suspicious compassion for customers on the other line and the vulgar responses of the ‘colleagues’ did seem a bit over the top. As Belfort’s wealth grew his character became more and more extravagant. One of the film’s many highlights featured him throwing lobsters at FBI investigators to further parade his luxurious lifestyle. Paradoxically, DiCaprio’s portrayal of Belfort appeared to be so thrilling and charismatic, that all the exaggeration around his persona was not only believable but quite entertaining to watch for three whole hours.
Despite all its visual displays The Wolf appears extremely realistic. Even the scenes where Belfort and his sidekick Donnie are engaged in more or less serious business conversations, the exaggeration is an evident, yet brilliant resemblance to our view of the 1%. Undoubtedly, Belfort’s ostentatious exploitation of money suggests the rather antagonistic aspect of his personality. However, this ambitious, cheerful and often pitiful man seems rather sympathetic regardless of his shenanigans and arrogance. Belfort is like a teenager who is set ‘free’ for the first time, not quite sure how to handle the pleasures of intoxication and sexual desire. At the beginning of the film, we even see an innocent young broker Belfort, who refuses to get a drink during his inspiring conversation with Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey). McConaughey’s performance was brief, yet its quality not only inspired the character within the film, but will fascinate the audience due to its brilliant comedy. It wasn’t long after this discussion that Belfort found himself unemployed during the 1987 financial crisis. He quickly used his skills and found the iconic team of self-made stock brokers who helped him manipulate the clients. His main business partner Donnie, portrayed quite well by the comic actor Jonah Hill, helped him step into the world of financial glory, as well as into the turmoil of sex drugs and…sex and drugs…and sex and drugs. Explicit sex scenes varying from genuine love acts between spouses to kinky orgies, and shots of euphoric intoxications were dominant in The Wolf. Once again, despite their content, these scenes seemed extremely appropriate for the leisure of the maddened 1%. Vulgar? Yes! Hyperbolized? Perhaps. Believable? Yes! The cast worked together quite harmoniously and each contributed to the formation of the overall ‘Wall Street’ image. A pleasant surprise was the performance of young actress Margot Robbie; both her appearance and acting skills neared the level of a true ‘duchess’.
Overall, nothing is incongruent in The Wolf of Wall Street; the outrageous and explicit content of the movie emphasizes Scorsese’s confidence and sincerity: he showed it as it is, while still producing a grand spectacle. The film’s comic genre appeared to be a wise stylistic choice that distinguished both the auteur and the star’s work. Flamboyant and charismatic, The Wolf deserves a special applause at the Oscars.