Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort was getting tired of measly non-challenging jobs and sets out for the big city in search of competition. He lands in New York City, takes a look around, sees the sign “Wall Street” and decides this would be the place for him. At the plush stockbroker’s office, his boss quickly acquaints him with a life of debauchery, with sex and drugs as part of the package. He was just getting into the hang of things, when the firm closes along with the great crash of Wall Street in 1929 and DiCaprio is jobless.
This forms part of The Wolf of Wall Street, a true-to-life film on Belfort, a stockbroker from Queens, of Jewish parentage. Directed by Martin Scorsese with DiCaprio in the lead, the film details the life of Belfort whose parents were accountants, and as a student at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. He left dentistry for a career as a broker at L.F. Rothschild.
Director Scorsese pursues Belfort’s story pretty faithfully as in his book. DiCaprio as Belfort follows a lead that one could make money dealing in “penny stocks” in Long Island. What this means is cheap stocks with cheap returns. By this time, however, Belfort, who has learned the tricks of the trade from Wall Street, decides to practice it on Long Island. He befriends Donnie Azoff (played by Jonah Hill), a salesman who appeared to have a wider range of what one could do with “penny stocks.” They recruit accountants and marijuana dealers, and open up the classy-sounding Stratton Oakmont firm.
Stratton Oakmont’s reputation grows, enough to attract a writer from Forbes Business magazine to come over to Stratton and write an exposé of Belfort and his firm, dubbing him as “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The story brings in hundreds of applicants looking for jobs. These new employees, who are now earning more than they could ever have dreamed of, lead the obligatory lifestyle of sex and drugs. Belfort himself giddy with success becomes addicted to prostitutes on call, cocaine and an even stronger drug Quaaludes. At one party, he meets Naomi (Margot Robbie) and begins an affair that ends with Belfort divorcing his wife and marrying Naomi.
Meantime, news of billions being churned out at Stratton Oakmont results in the FBI together with the Securities and Exchange Commission investigating the news. Belfort knows he has to withdraw his billions from the US and deposit the money in a Swiss Bank like all billionaires all over the world do. At this point, the film becomes a pseudo-action picture with the venue moved to Switzerland, chases on the top of buildings and on boats, and investigations, wire-tappings and arrests.
All in all, it is not an overly remarkable plot. Many reviewers refer to Wolf of Wall Street as a comedy. Critic Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote, “The Wolf of Wall Street is a magnificent black comedy: Fast, funny and remarkably filthy.” We did not feel that way. We thought of it as a serious condemnation of what lengths man will go for money.
Most complain about its almost three hours in length. Many are scandalized by the orgy and the depravity. The film was banned in Malaysia and Nepal. Thank heavens for our perceptive Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), we were spared of the cuts that others suffered. Three scenes were cut off in India, which showed Hill masturbating and DiCaprio blowing cocaine up a woman’s bottom with a straw. To think that Hill had practically applied to be in the movie, which required extreme cocaine-snorting, with multiple retakes leaving him sick for six weeks. “But I’d do it again,” the actor has been quoted as saying in interviews.
We were not bothered by the length. If we could sit through a Lav Diaz film, what is three hours? What carries it through is the partnership of a Scorsese and a DiCaprio. They do indeed make a perfect pair. We no longer even demand that DiCaprio win an Oscar. If it comes, it comes. The Wolf of Wall Street is a must-see!
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