“Wolf of Wall Street” film conveys powerful moral commentary
By Pam Giangreco, Staff Writer
In order to portray excess and to do it well, one must attack the subject matter with the same recklessness as the persons being portrayed. And when the storyteller is none other than Martin Scorsese there is a certain expectation of truth, no holds barred.
In this particular case the subject matter revolves around the fat cats of Wall Street; these men do not merely live in excess, but rather an engorged indulgence that is born of unmitigated materialism.
The story focuses on Jordan Belfort, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, and to him the worth of a dollar can be directly translated to its weight in drugs, women and perhaps overall, mindless luxury. The film begins with Belfort at the beginning of his career, but he soon learns a kind of audacity that creates an incredible ability to sell.
He is joined by Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), whose ruthless impulse lends itself to Belfort’s ideal business partner. The two of them, together with their team of drug pushers, form Stratton Oakmont, a stock brokerage, and rob their clients blind. Yet as their wealth increases so do their vices, and their complete lack of substance pervades every aspect of the film. They fly closer to the sun but their demise only becomes more apparent, as they are reduced to complete incompetency by their own addictions.
DiCaprio executes a commendable performance. He finds a mixture of ambi- tion and shallowness that serves the character well. Admittedly, he has grappled with men of luxury before in films such as Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby, and The Aviator, but each has been particularly tailored to a certain time period.
Additionally, Jonah Hill is certainly carving a space for himself amongst the greats of this time. He pulls off a performance that is truly disgusting, and is all the better for it.
Both these men are able to carry the film at large, but are also joined by Margot Robbie, who plays Naomi, Belfort’s wife. This woman may initially appear as a simple pawn, but ultimately finds the strength to do what is best for herself and her children. Robbie navigates this character arc with grace, and shows she can hold her own.
The film has garnered some heat for its glorification of this decadent lifestyle and in turn, its objectification of women.
However, this take away implies that the film is en- dorsing what it is showing rather than looking at the subject matter with a critical eye. Yes, perhaps one could read this film as a celebration of the corruption of Wall Street, but in truth that is completely neglecting the measures that Scorsese took in telling the story. He goes to such extreme honesty when addressing the topics of sex and drugs in order to show how completely imper- sonal the culture makes these experiences.
This treatment of these topics is intentionally grotesque to show the complete bewilderment he himself has with the content. These visu- als are by no means validating his characters’ actions, but rather completely dedicated to delivering the point: that this way of life is neither healthy nor fulfilling.
If there is perhaps one glaring flaw of this film, it is in its 179-minute length. Scorsese does utilize the majority of it, but perhaps could have cut some of the fluff out around the edges to condense the plot. However, the film remains extremely successful at relaying a story regard- less; a story that is complete with compelling characters, great actors and even a moral commentary.