"My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week."
How do you begin to write a review about a film that has so much things to comment on? The Wolf of Wall Street is an overblown energetic and hilarious film about these egocentric, greedy, immoral stockbrokers that we are supposed to hate, but ultimately end up rooting for because we have spent so much time laughing with them. These guys make Gordon Gekko from Wall Street look like a saint. Martin Scorsese is a genius; he can basically direct any movie he wants to and make it appealing. This is his follow up to Hugo (which was a brilliant family film) and he takes a 180 degree turn here with The Wolf of Wall Street and makes a comedy about these egocentric rich characters who have no moral boundaries, who spend their time getting high, objectifying women, and which should have been rated NC-17 because their excesses are constantly repeated over and over again on screen. Many people criticize the fact that it's so long and overblown, but I think that's exactly the point Scorsese is trying to get across by repeating their excesses and debauchery. If there is one word I'd have to use to describe this film it'd be energetic. The film is so energetic and you get it through each one of the brilliant performances in the movie. This is a filthy dark comedy, but one that will stick with you and have you question yourself for having rooted for these characters. I understand the comparisons with Scorsese's Goodfellas in that the characters wrongful behavior is what we become attracted to and makes the film so edgy. I'm not supposed to root for these guys, they are the villains, they do terrible things, we are all their victims, but then why do we want them to get away with what they're doing? These are all questions that only begin to come up long after the credits have rolled and eventually you realize that these guys deserved far worse punishment and got away too easy (but wait that is what really happened with all these Wall Street stockbrokers that almost ruined the country), and that is why Scorsese is such a brilliant director because he is so subtle in getting his message across and does so in such an energetic and funny way.
The screenplay was adapted by Terence Winter from Jordan Belfort's autobiographical book about his rise to becoming a millionaire as a Long Island penny stockbroker. At age 22, Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) received early training from his boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) and eventually gets a stockbroker license, but the company melts down on his first day and he's left in the streets again. His wife, Teresa (Cristin Milioti), recommends him a job at Investor Center, which happens to be a very unprofessional small establishment that only deals with penny stocks, but has incredibly high commissions. Jordan is a natural and pitches sales so well that he rises to the top easily again. One day a neighbor named Donnie (Jonah Hill) comes up to him and asks him how he makes so much money, which leads him to decide to get into stocks and work for him. The two find a garage and set up their own business bringing along some of their friends: Robbie (Brian Sacca), Alden (Henry Zebrowski), Chester (Kenneth Choi), Nicky (PJ Byrne), Toby (Ethan Suplee), and Brad (Jon Bernthal). Jordan teaches them how to pith the sales and over the years the company grows at a very high rate and even gets marketing from Forbes Magazine where Jordan is nicknamed as the Wolf of Wall Street. These guys don't care about their clients and will tell them anything just to make a sale, and do a bunch of illegal things along the way which eventually gets them into trouble with the law, specifically FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) who begins to follow their every move. Along the way in the midst of all the parties, sex, and drugs, Jordan falls for the beautiful Naomi (Margot Robbie) and eventually divorces his wife and marries her. The film continues to follow Jordan's excesses as he becomes more and more addicted to drugs, the most powerful of all being money.
Scorsese makes several great statements in this film about the world of Wall Street, similar to what he did with the gangster world in Goodfellas. He doesn't shy away from their egocentric world portraying numerous scenes where the characters are getting high, having sex, and getting rich at expense of the rest of the world. He also makes it clear that money is the most dangerous and addictive drug of all, and these men don't know where to draw the line. There are several scenes that truly stood out for me like the scene where Mark teaches Jordan what the business is really about, or when Jordan and Donnie meet for the first time, or when Jordan meets with Agent Dunham in his yacht. In the midst of all the crazy debauchery, these small conversation scenes work so well giving the characters more depth. There are also hilarious scenes like the one where Jordan and Donnie suffer from a delayed drug side effect, mixed with some very dark scenes as well like when Jordan has a huge fight with Naomi portraying him at his lowest point. The performances in this film are also incredible, Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best and funniest performance to date, the scenes where he gives his employees pep talks are mesmerizing, Jonah Hill is also at his best and has some extremely funny and insane scenes, they both truly deserve Oscar nominations for their work here. Matthew McConaughey is no longer a surprise, he has been exceptional in his latest films, but he has a very small role here, Margot Robbie gives an outstanding performance in a world where females are completely objectified, Rob Reiner is funny as Jordan's father, and finally Kyle Chandler also stood out for me as the only character who seemed to be morally incorruptible. They all bring so much energy to this film making the three hours go by fast despite being overblown and repetitive.