If Leonardo di Caprio was a stock, most people would say you should invest, so it’s fitting that he plays former stockbroker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Based on the real-life Belfort’s book of the same name about his life, which recounts his shady business practices, spectacular rise and bad fall in the financial sector during the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Wolf of Wall Street is all about having too much – too much money, too many women, too many parties. Everything is supersized (apart from the women).
The Wolf of Wall Street is a comedy more than anything else. There is no real plot – FBI agent Denham’s (Kyle Chandler) chase of Belfort forms just a small part of the film – and at times, this film just feels like a collection of comedy sketches and scenes featuring money and naked women thrown together. There are moments and scenes that are absolutely hilarious, and in a film that clocks in at just under three hours, those moments were the only ones keeping me paying attention at the end.
Di Caprio is, as always, very good to watch. Speaking as someone who’s had a crush on him since Romeo and Juliet circa 1997, this is the first film I’ve seen di Caprio in where he was completely unattractive. His Belfort is vile, greedy, and, at the end of it all, a massive coward and a snitch. I found not one single redeeming quality in Belfort, and felt uncomfortable in parts watching a film about such a horrid character.
Also brilliant is Matthew McConaughey, who absolutely steals the scenes he’s in as Belfort’s mentor and first boss. Despite his role being very small, his influence on Belfort is felt throughout the film.
The Wolf of Wall Street is all about excess – I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw more drugs and naked female bodies in this film than during all five seasons of The Wire (seriously, there’s that many) – and unfortunately the excessiveness slips into the editing. This film is, at the very least, 30 minutes too long, and there are scenes that feel neverending. One that sticks out is a speech Belfort makes to the employees at Stratton Oakmont on the day they take their first company public – it went on for so long I’m surprised there were trading hours left in the day by the time he finished.
There are also excess characters floating around. I was never quite sure what the purpose of Belfort’s dad was – he shouts a bit, and that’s it. Belfort’s mum is shown a bare minimum of times, and we never see her speak – I felt like she was a non-entity in the film.
And the women. Well, what women? They’re either naked, faux strong or naked. The one female stockbroker we actually hear from ends her scene in tears, while Belfort’s secretary is a one-dimensional harpy. Belfort’s wife Naomi, nicknamed The Duchess, gets a little bit more to do, but her real role in the film is to make sure Belfort has someone to lust after, love, hate, fight with, lust, hate and fight with again, and has no real character of her own.
A little more plot, a little less of just about everything else, and The Wolf of Wall Street could have been a film I enjoyed. As it was, by the end, despite the laughs, I felt like I’d suffered through it, which is more than I could say for Belfort, whose bad deeds seemed to have very few consequences. And perhaps that was what I disliked most of all.