The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


The Wolf of Wall Street is perhaps more fun than it should be. It's certainly more fun than I expected it to be. The main character, Jordan Belfort, is living a life to rival Ron Woodruff's at the beginning of Dallas Buyers Club. When he's not screaming his own praises into the office mic, he's busy doing a lot of ladies and a lot of drugs. Somewhere in there, he's also making a crapload of money. Thankfully, unlike Woodruff, Belfort miraculously doesn't contract a life-threatening STD. However, in what is simultaneously the most upsetting and hilarious scene in the film, he does sort of develop Cerebral Palsy.

There's been some concern expressed over what some perceive to be the glorification of a dangerous, solely self-serving lifestyle. Okay but, even if you're a dude who really loves getting ass and throwing hundred dollar bills into the East River, surely you may think twice once the party turns into the big shot losing the use of his limbs while drooling and wearing sweatpants while his cousin-loving buddy suffers a near death by deli ham. This quibble doesn't seem worth much of anyone's time.

As Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio once again shines in a year that seems unlikely to be his, Oscar-wise (but who knows?). He's becoming the Susan Lucci of real actors. This role shows that, aside from his skill as a dramatic actor, he's also pretty damn great at physical comedy. As Belfort's toothy cohort, Donnie Azoff, Jonah Hill gives a truly standout performance. He manages to be both lovable and absolutely vile. Consistently unfortunate, however, are the performances by almost every extra. The Leo at the Mic scenes turn painful each time the camera pans to the star-struck drudges who are earning Belfort's coke money for him. It's a big cast, but still you'd think they'd be able to hire people capable of making realistic facial expressions.

The Wolf of Wall Street shows us a man tearing every aspect of his life apart. That this slow destruction is so much fun to watch is something we should all just sit back and be grateful for. While we may not be rolling in cash, at least we're not that guy.


Apparently, the 1980's were a really awesome time to be a money-grubbing, drug-addled asshole reveling in excess. In 1987's Wall Street, Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko is quoted as saying "Greed is good" during a speech in the film's most memorable scene. Cut to 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, also framed against the world of 1980's Wall Street, where Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort shows us that greed is not only good, but also a hell of a lot of fun. While we may have missed out on the opportunity to score lemon Quaaludes, we certainly haven't missed out on the opportunity to see DiCaprio snort coke out of a woman's butt on the big screen. That seems at least slightly comparable.

The Wolf of Wall Street, based on Belfort's memoir of the same name, tells the riches to riches story of a quick-talking New York stockbroker's rise (and fall) (and rise) (and fall) (and sort of rise) to the top of the market game over the course of 180 minutes. That's it. That's the movie. It's a testament to a self-made man who possessed the ability to screw some poor people, and a lot of rich people, out of heaps of money. I feel pretty morally objectionable when I'm only charged for the Big Mac sandwich at McDonald's even though I ordered the Extra Value Meal. Jordan Belfort feels pretty morally objectionable when he slaps his wife, gets high, and then runs away with his daughter, all before crashing his car in his driveway. I'm not even sure Belfort felt particularly bad about this, but he does look a little sad. Whatever.

Leonardo DiCaprio has never been better than when he sports the perma-smile and fine tailored suits of Jordan Belfort. Jonah Hill's teeth, who play Belfort's right-hand man Donnie Azoff's teeth, are really, really white and bring new meaning to the word "chompers". Jonah Hill's penis, which makes an appearance at a party in the film's first act, is actually a prosthetic, so let's not get too excited here. The two (DiCaprio and Hill, not Hill's teeth and prosthetic penis) are at their best when they are at their worst. Watching DiCaprio open a car door with his feet while under the effect of Quaaludes is a lot of fun, as is watching Hill really ham it up while choking on a piece of ham, also while under the effect of 'ludes. Margot Robbie is terrific as Jordan Belfort's 2nd wife Naomi, and Joanna Lumley is absolutely fabulous as Aunt Emma, Jordan's reserved European accomplice. I was particularly excited to see Kyle Chandler in the role of FBI agent Patrick Denham because he still looks exactly the same as he looked on the TV show "Homefront" in 1993, and 12 year old me thought he was a pretty big hunk.

Much has been made of The Wolf of Wall Street's role in celebrating the life of a particularly reprehensible person. Shouldn't we feel guilty watching it when a lot of innocent people lost a great deal of money at the hands of the monsters like Jordan Belfort? Whatever (again). It's a great film that features a lot of great actors doing a lot of terrible things to each other, and, in the end, no one really ends up getting away with any of it. If some of the money I spent on my ticket ends up making it's way into Belfort's pocket, I hope he rolls it into a tube and snorts another line out of a stripper's backside. On my behalf, it's an investment well made.


The Wolf of Wall Street is an uncomfortable romp of hedonism featuring one Wall Street CEO Jordan Belfort, an obnoxiously charming yet skuzzy playboy, played exquisitely by Leonardo DiCaprio. From the outlook, this film has all the promises of being a frat-boy favorite with scene after scene of Hangover-esque shenanigans. Right from the beginning we get a Jackass inspired scene of a wild party being thrown by Belfort at the workplace complete with a crash-helmet-wearing dwarf being thrown at an archery target. However, this movie should not be taken so lightly as the aforementioned films. Martin Scorsese manages to walk a careful line expertly allowing the audience to be taken in by this absurd, affluent world while still revealing the negative consequences of leading such an extremely selfish, greedy, and hedonistic lifestyle.

All of the cast are made into caricatures that help create a sense of heightened reality that is both remarkably entertaining and strategically allegorical. Jonah Hill plays Belfort's classless right hand man with comedic prowess. Jean Dujardin plays a Swiss banker with that remarkably cheesy charm we've come to expect from him after The Artist. Joanna Lumley plays the seductively maternal Aunt Emma with regal suavity. Matthew McConaughey plays Belfort's almost hippy mentor with a natural pot-headedness that is "high"-larious.

Throughout the film we are given snippets of insight into the tragic effects of Belfort's lifestyle. These moments are initially impactful yet brief and are immediately glossed over by a quick change in subject. This technique allows us to get the story from Belfort's perspective while emphasizing the warped sense of reality he has obtained. Eventually, these moments are bigger and more lingering. One scene in particular exemplifies this concept. Belfort, after having taken extremely powerful tranquilizers, decides to drive his car away from his home to make a confidential phone call. The drugs take a long time to take effect, but when they do, he loses nearly all of his motor skills (pun not intended). Belfort's perception of reality, in which he believes he drove his car extremely slowly and carefully home, is jarringly contradicted when police officers show up to his house arresting him for damage that he has caused from his recent outing. We then see an alternate scene in which Belfort's car has raced down roads crashing into everything near its path.

As a Liberal upset with the damage done by Wall Street to American economy and politics, I felt utterly disgusted leaving this film the first time. I even felt guilty having been entertained. However, that is where the brilliance of this film lies: it has a marvelous technique of entertaining in the wake of disaster which disturbs us and encourages serious refection well after we leave the cinema.