Five reasons The Wolf of Wall Street should not win an Oscar


I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street. I really shouldn’t have. I can’t think of any film I’ve ever enjoyed less. I’ve racked my brains but – nothing. It’s the worst. At 180 minutes, it’s also practically interminable.

It’s about an entirely one-dimensional stockbroker called Jordan Belfort whose primary concerns are making money, snorting cocaine and paying women to have sex with him. So far, so Wall Street cliché.

Belfort starts small by fraudulently trading low-value penny stocks and goes on to develop a financial empire. He becomes addicted to drugs, yachts, sports cars and prostitutes. His relationships crumble and –here’s what you definitely weren’t expecting – so does his business.

Image source: Wikipedia

Image source: Wikipedia

If the story itself is dull, the way it’s told is offensively mundane. The clichés of excess are repeated ad nauseam. When Belfort is not cultivating a cult of personality on the trading floor, he’s either in a drug-induced state of delirium or the company of a prostitute. On two occasions, the twin traits of substance abuse and misogyny are artfully combined when Belfort snorts cocaine from a prostitute’s butt crack and later from his girlfriend’s cleavage.

If that weren’t bad enough, Belfort narrates the film’s events in an amazingly irritating and over-stated voice-over.

You might have guessed by now that I’m not exactly a fan of this film, which has inexplicably been nominated for five Academy Awards. Here are as many reasons The Wolf of Wall Street shouldn’t win any:

1. It’s not believable

Although it’s based on a true story, it manages to come across entirely implausible. Given the insane lifestyle Belfort leads, there’s no way he’d be in a position to develop a multi-billion dollar business in such a short space of time, nor would he be able to train his incestuous and apparently simpleton employees to trick intelligent people into investing millions in stocks they hadn’t heard of.

2. It lacks subtlety.

For three hours, we are subjected to endless scenes of debauchery and excess. The tired stereotype is then drilled in further with Belford’s tedious voice-over in which he reinforces his addiction to money, drugs and sex. It’s just too one-dimensional to be realistic, not funny enough to be a farce and not subtle enough to be poignant. It has no message whatsoever.

3. No character development

None of the characters develop in any way. Belfort remains obsessed with money, power and sex, as do his employees. Belfort’s father is just another flat supporting character with an unexplained anger control problem. Belfort’s first wife doesn’t have any identifiable personality in the first place (she is, after all, a woman) and his second uses sex as a currency from beginning to end. All the other women are prostitutes, who have no discernible thoughts, feelings or intentions.

4. Ridiculous depiction of women

Belfort’s first wife plays an extremely minor role, which is limited to helping him find his job trading penny stocks and being hysterical when she catches him with the woman who is to become his second wife. His second wife, who marries him for his money, communicates entirely through sex. She is more attractive than his first wife, so she doesn’t have to bother giving Belfort any emotional support. Instead, she has sex with him in exchange for yachts and jewellery and deprives him of it as a punishment.

5. It’s too long.

Every time the screen darkened my heart leapt with anticipation. But it carried on, relentlessly. Since there was no character development, no believable plot and no message to interpret, I just sat there, counting down the minutes.

In hindsight, I should really have invested the cost of the ticket into a penny stock… But like so many, I was duped into a highly dodgy investment.

*******************************************************************************************************************

The real Jordan Belfort seems pretty insufferable too. But at least he’s real:

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22 thoughts on “Five reasons The Wolf of Wall Street should not win an Oscar

  1. I can appreciate your being repulsed at the movie. Although I have not seen the movie, I have seen numerous clips promoting it. Unfortunately, it is realistic. I lived in New York for my first 60 years. I’ve known people whose behavior was equally appalling when suddenly drenched in money, drugs, and ego. I’ve watched people be sucked into that bizarre lifestyle, only to overdose, be jailed, or disappear. Scorsese may not always create a masterpiece, but he may have portrayed an ugly, self consumed time period with accuracy.

    I so enjoy your essays. Keep at it!

    • Thanks for your comment, Francesclaire! I bet you experienced incredible change in your 60 years in New York. I can well imagine that there are some foul characters on Wall Street — I guess my objection was that there was no nuance or depth to their portrayal. I didn’t need to see three hours of drugs and sex to get the message. The lifestyle was introduced in the opening scene and repeated relentlessly. I take your point though that the debauchery could well reflect the true lifestyles of some of these types.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the posts – lovely to get some feedback! Come by again soon :)

  2. You’ve pretty much summed it up. The film really puzzled me because as you say “it had no message whatsoever”. There was only a fleeting glimpse of prison, tennis courts included. Not much of a deterrent. It didn’t even bother to show any of his investors whose lives he devastated albeit by Belfort appealing to their greed. Just a showcase for debauchery. I don’t know if you know, but there has been a “craze” for drinking a pint with a goldfish in it, goldfish and all (I think just UK and possibly Ireland). People seem to think it came from nowhere. Methinks this film is the source. I wonder what other behaviour it will condone and propagate…

    • “A showcase for debauchery” is the perfect way to put it! I mean, I went to see it because I thought the story itself might be interesting but even it just fell flat. I also thought the ultimate reason Jordan ended up in jail –out of loyalty to his friend rather than his own fraudulent behaviour– appeared really contrived.And as you say, not a word about the victims of this excess.. I’m relieved I’m not the only one who felt this way about the film!

      I hadn’t heard about that bizarre craze — it sounds like an warped version of those “nek nominations.” The world has gone mad.

      As always, it’s so lovely to hear from you and thanks for commenting! Hope you are keeping well :)

  3. I refused it watch it on the basis that I object to Jordan Belfort earning any more money (directly or indirectly – I’m not sure if he profits from his book, but he obviously profits from his notoriety) from his ludicrously awful behaviour. In interviews he does seem just as flat as he is apparently portrayed. Most defences of the film seem to require you to assume a very specific perspective (i.e. that it’s a farce BUT ALSO that the fact that the women are portrayed so poorly is a direct reflection of Belfort’s views, not those of the director). It’s not exactly indisputable that this is the case, and furthermore it doesn’t seem necessary to portray them as Belfort saw them, which suggests that Scorsese made a decision to portray them that way in order to profit from people clever enough to perceive it as a farce, and from people sexist enough to think women are really like that.

    • Yeah, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with that.The director’s perspective seems barely distinguishable from Belfort’s. And I don’t think that merits it being called a farce or some kind of parody. And quite apart from the representation of women being offensive, it was also totally unrealistic. Being materialistic doesn’t mean you have no other inner life worth portraying. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in!

  4. Fabulously well expressed as always! I could not agree more with you! I think there were a couple of transient moments where I did laugh and one particularly in which I semi connected with the man, (scene where one of his employees recalls her financial woes and how the big J helped her but the fact that that made the sleaze ball think he should return to defrauding the world and debauching himself into oblivion just ruined it. The fact that there was not the remotest ounce of a moral/message/anything that you could take away from the ending just made it worse. Do I really want motivational speeches from a guy who is a reckless sot of a dad, a superficial, unfaithful, abusive husband and a generally arrogant, disrespectful, spoilt little brat? No! Loll! Apologies for the rant! It’s just that you managed to articulate all the frustrations I had with the movie so exactly that I could not help but splurge. Love all your blog posts as ever! Xx

    • Aw thanks so much for reading and leaving such a lovely comment! The film really seems to be polarise opinion. This post somehow got onto a Reddit movie forum full of people that loved the film. They slated this!

      I agree absolutely that there was just nothing to take away from the film. If the point was to show the emptiness and debauchery of the time, it was done with so little subtlety as to be completely boring.

      And I loved your rant!! Hope you are doing well and talk soon! xxx

  5. Fabulously well expressed as always! I could not agree more with you! I think there were a couple of transient moments where I did laugh and one particularly in which I semi connected with the man, (scene where one of his employees recalls her financial woes and how the big J helped her but the fact that that made the sleaze ball think he should return to defrauding the world and debauching himself into oblivion just ruined it. The fact that there was not the remotest ounce of a moral/message/anything that you could take away from the ending just made it worse. Do I really want motivational speeches from a guy who is a reckless sot of a dad, a superficial, unfaithful, abusive husband and a generally arrogant, disrespectful, spoilt little brat? No! Loll! Apologies for the rant! It’s just that you managed to articulate all the frustrations I had with the movie so exactly that I could not help but splurge. Love all your blog posts as ever! Xx

  6. I thought it was a fantastic film in terms of it’s delivery. You have to remember this is a self portrait of Belfort, it’s based on his own book. I thought the lack of nuance was something that played to the film’s strength and that DiCaprio truly transformed for the role. Of course I can understand why someone wouldn’t like it since it’s a glamorisation of an objectionable lifestyle. I agree that the plot was thin but it wasn’t a film about plot it was a film about a deplorable character and as someone said above his showcase for debauchery. It’s not supposed to be nice or realistic, its a window into a Wall Street success’s view of himself.

    In so far as the treatment of women it was also from Belfort’s perspective though I thought there were strong performances, especially from the second wife. Men are capable of differentiating fact and fiction and the only men who see women in the way they are depicted in this film are the wannabe Jordan Belforts of the world. I would liken the treatment of women in this film to the treatment of men in Magic Mike. In that film the men were shallow and one dimensional with improbable storylines and it was wildly popular and well received.

  7. Hmm, I don’t think lack of nuance is a strength, no matter what you are trying to portray. I thought it was supposed to be realistic, given that it was based on a true story. I mean, if Belford’s perspective is the only we’re supposed to get, we should just go hear him give a speech or something. The point of other characters is to get other perspectives. That didn’t happen because the characters were so flat.

    Re: the second wife – we have to agree to differ. I thought her motives and actions were completely implausible. I haven’t seen Magic Mike though so I can’t comment on that. Thanks for commenting — always nice to have a debate.

  8. It was one of the worst films I’ve ever viewed. I turned it off half way through. Scorsese lives vicariously through DiCaprio. The film is Scorsese’s desire to film porn with the object of his lust, and make mainstream money from it. It was pure crap.

  9. I only managed to make it through half of the film. I was sickened with how women were portrayed and frankly bored of seeing him get high and have sex with prostitutes constantly. You are completely right about the film having no depth whatsoever. There was just nothing likeable or interesting about his character and it fell flat. As one of your other comments suggests, the director definitely took on Belfort’s misogynistic perspective of women. Thanks for the post, it was nice to read something that articulated what I felt about the film. I was finding it hard to express the reason why I disliked it do much. :)

  10. Pingback: Eleven Tips for Aspiring Writers | Katekatharina.com

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