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The Wolf of Wall Street
Genre Biography
 
Review:

"For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." The verse is often misquoted, but seems fitting when you consider the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker whose extraordinary biography became a film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Money is power and in a world that seems to never have enough of it, Jordan Belfort thrived. Preying on Joe Public's dream of hitting the big time without a lottery ticket was an easy way to amass a fortune, under the auspices that the "clients" were getting richer by simply making the right phone call at the right time.

Blowing hot air, inflating egos and the gift of the gab seem to have become synonymous with the cliche of the successful New York stock broker. Essentially, a high-powered telemarketer, these big players have developed stigmas because of people like Jordan Belfort. Their pressure cooker lifestyles, hard-living and cut throat style of business may have become popularized in Hollywood, but where there's smoke... money's burning.

Belfort's exploits have finally got the Hollywood treatment in the wake of biopics like Jobs and dramas like The Social Network. Ironically, these self-made, tragic, infamous and "celebrated" figures have earned their place in Hollywood thanks to their twisted attitude towards people.

Belfort's staff worshiped him like a holy figure and his blaze of glory has been glamorised in this dark comedy biopic from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The excesses of wealth and overnight success have been played up for comic effect like one wild party, where anything goes. Sex, booze, drugs, prostitutes - this self-centred story about addictions is an indictment on modern society.

We're thrown back to The Great Gatsby, as a parade of excessive living preceding The Great Depression, epitomized Western economic culture's propensity to live large and worry about it tomorrow. Leonardo DiCaprio played Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation, echoing the rise and fall of the American dream in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Not surprisngly, the film also conjures up characters like Gordon Gecko from Wall Street and the whole sub genre of films that deal with the New York stock exchange. To differentiate itself, The Wolf of Wall Street is not a drama, but a dark comedy riding Belfort's already surreal, drug-infused journey. This angle frames the American "dream", further distinguishes the film, adds an entertaining slant on the drama and a comedic touch to the wide range of dubious characters.

Belfort's rise to fame started in the '80s and bled into the '90s. This was an awkward transition, which has been captured quite beautifully by the wardrobe and production design team. It's never distracting, if you ignore the white Ferrari, but remains familiarly present. The dark comedy, constant intoxication, keeping up pretences, politics of money, tacky disposition and one long party attitude throbs like a Weekend at Bernie's hangover.

The Wolf of Wall Street sports an accomplished cast, who serve up an excellent palette of performances. DiCaprio is captivating as Belfort, carrying the film with great aplomb and adding weight to the hazy and superficial "got the t-shirt" life story. As an audience, we're able to like the man, despite his smoke screening and deplorable lifestyle of drugs, sex and dirty money.

He's supported by Jonah Hill in a strong sidekick performance that harks back to his role in Moneyball opposite Brad Pitt. Hill is equally slimy as Belfort's second-in-command, yet we're won over by his dogged determination, cheeky demeanour and loyalty. Then the film makes a striking showcase for Australian newcomer, Margot Robbie. While she's playing a trophy wife, the actress never seems out of her depth opposite DiCaprio.

The Wolf of Wall Street also features Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin and Joanna Lumley. While each of these actors is accomplished in their own rite, the pick of the supporting actors must surely go to Matthew McConnaughey, whose small part as Mark Hanna is award-worthy and good enough to upstage DiCaprio.

Scorsese's irreverent and immoral biopic tears the Band-aid off the festering sore that is the America dream. The screenplay is chock-full of bad language (506 f-bombs), debauched characters and detestable business practices, yet to his credit, he's able to unearth a three hour film that while dark and despicable, remains entertaining and eye-opening.

The bottom line: Depraved

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