Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Sex, drugs and stockbroking!

The debauchery antics and lifestyle famed by rock ‘n’ roll legends, we learn, are not limited to the music industry. Instead, those in the financial industry peddling stocks and shares, are shown to also be ‘living the dream’ of money, sex and drugs. Well, that is according to the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street, starting Leonardo DiCaprio, which is based on a memoir by disgraced broker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio’s character) of the same name.
The film is said to be based on true accounts of the rise and fall of Belfort’s life on Wall Street, which saw him defraud his clients and get rich. If his memoirs are anything like the film, I can definitely see the appeal to have adapted it for the silver screen. Though to be honest, I don’t think much adapting was necessary since his life story seems like something only Hollywood could dream up!
The film is directed in a way that seems to glamorize Belfort’s lifestyle, emphasizing its rich content of money, sex and drugs. With DiCaprio delivering his suave Great Gatsby acting and really bringing both the character and the film to life.

While I can admit that I enjoyed the film's visuals and acting, I did find it hard at times to watch. With all the nudity, sex, drugs and domestic violence not easy to digest, no matter what spin you put on it. The gluttony and opulence of Belfort’s life was impeccably displayed through the film, though, while watching I couldn’t stop thinking whether this highly glamorized narrative of Jordan’s life was authentic to his own expression or was this Hollywood’s doing?

There was no moral to the Jordan’s story, no remorse shown in the film. This was epitomized in the ending scene, where Jordan learns his fear of prison was irrational since prison for rich men isn’t far off from a long stay at the country club. I found this deeply disturbing, and for this reason, I left the cinema feeling empty and slightly guilty for having enjoyed any of it.
The film can be seen to endorse the idea of a certain type of reckless behavior enacted by the people responsible for our present day financial situation.  Though what’s worse is that the film presents this behavior in such a way that condones it as every ‘mans’ dream - money, beautiful women, sex, drugs and the diminished sense of responsibility. This we see is implied regularly in DiCaprio’s first person narration. 

He is living the dream all men really want to be living, and come on, it has to be a male dream since I cannot imagine many women opting to align themselves with the wives of of these stockbrokers, since we see Jordan cheat on, rape and violently attack his second wife. I am sure no woman would consider access to wealth worth these conditions.
So what was the conclusion of the film? Was it ok for Jordan to screw over his clients since he was just trying to live the dream, and you can’t blame him for that? It’s a rich (white) mans world, so you either play the game or sit it out? We see Jordan’s entrepreneurial spirit portrayed in the film as being his redeeming quality, despite the immoral way he achieved his success and wealth. The fact that he achieved it, seemed to be the only thing that really mattered, with it being almost admirable that he was able to find new ways to make money after Wall Street.
I feel Scorsese was being ironic in the making of this film, since the approach seems to mock our indulgence for Hollywood films, giving us everything one expects from a Hollywood production (beautiful women, nudity, sex, drugs, violence, etc.) in a form that is so sickingly sweet one OD’s on its frequent scenes of explicit sex and drug (for a non R rated film).
With the high glamour direction used in a way that is not only ironic, but also parodies our social conditions. Since Scorsese has glamorized the very industry we are still currently blaming for the credit crunch, what the recent Occupy movements protested against, making them an industry of rock stars, and who doesn’t love a rock star?! No scene in the film epitomizes Jordan’s rock star quality better than the Lemmons scene at the country club, who didn’t laugh at that?
I feel that The Wolf of Wall Street was soo wrong that it was right. That in spite of its immaculate cinematic’s one wasn’t meant to wholly enjoy it, that one was meant to feel  uncomfortable at times, that one was meant to question it immoral ending.  Scorsese presents us with a visual representation of contemporary capitalism, one in which everything seems great and 'everyone's a winner (if they try), but at what cost and to what loss?
Are we really that ignorant?
I thought this was perfectly demonstrated in the film, as DiCaprio’s character, on more than one occasion plays on this idea that the audience is too ignorant to understand the technicalities to the plot of his deception. As we won’t understand all that financial jargon, he instead opts for a simple summary to spare our simple minds.


  1. Nope, I wouldn’t recommend the film to anyone. The wolf of wall street is bad. Not because it’s provocative but because it’s disgusting and offensive for no reason. Its misogyny is not an exposure or a critique, it’s a display. The message it pretends to be sending is just an excuse for the provocation that will guarantee some eyeballs, it doesn’t really criticize what it is portraying in any meaningful way nor does it expose how harmful it is to the women surrounding its ahole protagonist, who is the only one that matters and the consequences for him are the only consequences that matter. All that stays with you are the images of women used as objects, like in porn and this guy having a good time until he is not. They simply make sure that the film leaves an impression to boost its oscar chances even if that impression is through meaningless, misogynistic, degrading imagery and language. Bothering to critique or expose the injustice of things must be too much for the dumb audience they assume they have I guess

  2. My question is — is this movie doing anything new? At this point, “white Wall Street conmen experience meteoric rise and disgraceful plummet, as accompanied by prostitutes and drugs; cause us to question our own social values” isn’t new ground to tread. In a year where we had some pretty cool and unusual things happening in mainstream cinema (an animated “princess” movie where the most important relationship was between two sisters, a space thriller whose face was a middle-aged woman, a high-grossing action movie starring a young woman, a sci-fi blockbuster where 2/3 leads were NOT white men, a female buddy-cop movie), this just seems….tired. And honestly, nothing in this review is making me think the movie is going to ask any questions that haven’t been asked a million times, in similar explorations. Pass, sorry.

  3. While you raise a good point, it is telling that the films you have mentioned are all fantasy/sci-fi, where as TWW is said to based on real life. There is absolutely no reason why fictitious narratives cannot be racially and gender diverse, which is why it’s good to see examples like you mentioned appearing on the silver screen.

    Though, our reality is something different to contend with, so when presented with films which are meant to depict our history, what do you what it to say? Personally, I think such films always have an agenda which really only reside into 2 catogories, they either romanticize the past or they make us question it. With TWW, it is way too glamourized and morally defunct to be trying to romanticize this history, which is why I felt it must be trying to be ironic.

    I think it’s positive that you felt so strongly against the storyline, as like I said in the post, I think you were meant to leave the screening feeling discomfort. Until I came up with the post, I felt the same way, I had to overcome my shock and anger, then I could look at the film critically and ask myself what I thought the film was trying to convey? Which is the reason I like to blog. I am in no way attempting to endorse the film, just try to make sense of it, and maybe see how others felt about.


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