I assumed that my opinion of this film was always going to be biased from the outset seeing as though I’m a huge fan of Martin Scorsese as a director and indeed of Leonardo DiCaprio. If I’m honest I went in to the screening wanting this to be a good film. I’d waited nearly a year after seeing the first trailer which had me intrigued within the first couple of seconds, so I went in eager to see what the three hour picture had in store for me. I came out with mixed opinions. The only way I can describe is by quoting the chorus of ‘All My Life’ by Foo Fighters: I love it but I hate the taste, and that is exactly how I felt about the film; it was good but left me with a bitter taste.
The film, for those who don’t know, focuses around the life and exploits of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker who was involved in various illegal dealings after the Wall Street crash of 1987. The film details his exploits in the work place, his relationship with colleagues and his two wives, but the main focus of the film is his party lifestyle after working hours and indeed during working hours. There’s sex, drugs, violence, colourful language and just about everything in between. It is turned up to eleven from the opening minutes and does not back down for three hours. It was always going to be interesting for me because I find the man himself, Jordan Belfort, a fascinating person. He’s inspiring because of how he has turned his life around completely and because of his motivational speeches nowadays, and yet he is repellent because I can’t forgive him for the atrocities of the past. I think the film manages to show him as exactly who he was: a self-obsessed, misogynist, out of control arse and I am thankful that the film doesn’t ask you to forgive him at the end.
In case you don’t guess before you watch the film I’ll be direct about it; the acting in the film is superb. I can see that the film is shambolic, ill-disciplined and over indulgent but it’s the central performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill who really hold this mess together. Their on screen chemistry is perfect and they bounce off of each other in quite a horribly enjoyable fashion. Both have been nominated for Academy Awards this year and it would be nice to see at least Leo receive the award but I think it’s unlikely. He is perfect as Belfort, showing the out of control idiot who we all hate, and you will hate him from the start, but then he equally manages to capture the intelligent business man who was incredibly clever with words. It is was an amazing experience to see DiCaprio give such an energised performance and I hope the odds are tipped in his favour during the award season.
There was always an issue with screenplay for this film, with articles all over the internet proudly showing how the film holds the record for the film with the most use of the ‘f’ word, featuring in the film 506 times over a three hour period. I don’t know why people are complaining about it, not only is it an accurate portrayal of how the people spoke in real life but also it’s a film with an 18 certificate, I think you should expect there to be profanity use throughout. I have to admit I do like the screenplay, I think Terence Winter has done a brilliant job managing to make it witty and intelligent but also quite informative. There are times in which you really have to keep your wits about you because it gets bogged down in jargon but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What you hear in the film is just as important as what you see on screen. I would like to see the film win the award for adapted screenplay, but that’s a category in which my predictions are usually wrong.
As I said at the start I am a massive Scorsese fan and I love the majority of his films, and I know people have complained about the explicit nature of the film and some of the behaviour it shows, but I think Scorsese took a risk with making the film as gritty as it is and it’s a risk that paid off. There’s no point in making a film about such lifestyles without showing every element of them. I love how Scorsese is still treating cinema audiences as mature adults and not as children who need to be accompanied by their parents. It’s refreshing to see such a controversial film being made rather than playing it safe to up its chances of winning awards. It’s an accurate portrayal of events and they are put to the screen in an uncomfortably entertaining manner. Scorsese had a star studded cast for this one and he put them all to good use and executed the film in a rather slick manner. It’s not amazing and I can see that it is very poorly disciplined and nowhere near as good as other Scorsese pictures such as ‘Goodfellas’ so I hope Scorsese doesn’t hold too much hope of winning an Academy Award for his directing here.
I can’t really say much about cinematography for this film because there was so much happening I wasn’t really concentrating on how it was put to screen. Scorsese has always been good with camera angles, making sure the right image is on screen and focusing on facial expressions appropriately. His work for the large party sequences and orgy scenes was uncomfortable to say the least but it shows how his visual style is leaving an impact on the audience.
As ever with a Scorsese picture the soundtrack is incredible, a nice mixture of fitting musing that suits the time period and behaviour of the characters. It reminded me of the impact the ‘Goodfellas’ soundtrack had, which this film did not meet by a long shot, but it did make me realise just how well the soundtrack worked. It’s a long film and so the soundtrack contains a lot of songs but there was never a time in which I thought a song didn’t fit.
It’s quite a rare occasion when I leave a film and the first thing I’m thinking about is which way its moral compass is pointing. In the case of this film it was the main thing on my mind after leaving. I would warn anybody who is thinking of seeing the film that it is very explicit and you will hate Jordan Belfort by the end of it. His lifestyle of excessive wealth and partying is shown throughout the film which has caused many people to complain as they feel it promotes such deviant behaviour and even condones it. Personally I do not feel as though the film asks you to like this world or indeed to like Belfort himself, it merely depicts how his life was in as accurate a way as possible. I think the aim of the film is to show you just how horrible the behaviour is, not to make you accept it or even like it. In terms of the gender struggle within the film I’ll leave that as a topic for other people to discuss because I’m sure others can write a far more authoritative argument than I can, but just suffice to say some parts containing female characters made me feel both annoyed and uncomfortable.
It’s interesting to see how people have received the film and how people have reacted to the actual wolf of Wall Street himself but if I’m honest I can’t help but feel embarrassed because I know that in the end he represents all of us. He represents the greed that all of us have inside us and the lust for wealth most humans share, he’s just a grim look at what happens when our dreams are reached and how horrible our lust for money is when it’s allowed to manifest.
Overall I don’t know if I could give the film a rating because I have such mixed views on it. I’m remaining fairly neutral with it because if I had to sum it up for anyone who is thinking of seeing it I would simply say: it is an ill disciplined and over indulgent look into a world you will hate, a person you will hate, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off screen. I still maintain that DiCaprio holds the film together and puts on an incredible performance, but the film is still a mess. I will say that it is funny and entertaining but it’s odd how sometimes it’s the uncomfortable bits that are more entertaining and then there’s uncomfortable sequences that are a miss fire and left me feeling annoyed. I think a second viewing is in order before I can decide fully, but before that I think it’s best if I just shower my mind for a month and try to come to terms with what I have witnessed.
In short the film makes you hate people if you didn’t do so already.