Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, P J Byrne
The Indian express rating: ***1/2
Wall Street (1987) was about greed, and how good it could feel -- for a while. The Wolf of Wall Street is about unsettling excess. It never feels really good but, in what is the underlying theme of Scorsese's latest, 30 years on, excess never has to end.
So Jordan Belfort, the 'Wolf of Wall Street', doesn't climb the steps of a courthouse looking at serving time with a clean conscience. Having turned his friends in, he puts his money to good use inside a prison, gets off lightly, and as per last reports, is still to fully compensate the victims he cheated despite the deal he signed. Nevertheless, he is a celebrated guest speaker, holds motivational seminars on how to manage finances, and earned a tidy sum through his books and later selling the rights of them for this film.
But we are jumping the gun here. For The Wolf of Wall Street isn't about Belfort the stock manipulator who cheated poor people of hard-earned savings. It isn't really about Wall Street either. It is about the culture that allows one to breed the other, and vice-versa. It's about the whole world of ignored morality that can spring from the prospect of easy money, including both those reeling out Belfort's spiel and those falling for it.
DiCaprio's Belfort starts with being an eager follower (of a brilliant Matthew McConaughey in a much too brief role), goes on to being an ardent believer, then a "ferocious" leader (in his own words), and finally a wreck who realises he has gone too far down his own rabbit hole. No one watching him here will not be reminded of his The Great Gatsby just a few months earlier. In the theme, in the setting (Long Island), and in the over-the-top manic exhuberance, the films are quite similar. However, one was about a man who achingly saw these clearly for what it was, even as he pretended otherwise, and the other is about a man who doesn't understand why the party has to end. It's only once, as Belfort is looking down a familiar staircase, that we see him face clarity -- but briefly.
The film bristles with this nervous energy of its lead star, rushing forth in bursts and then unexpectedly slowing down as Belfort hits a rare low.