The one thing you need to know about Martin Scorsese's new film The Wolf of Wall Street, which opens everywhere Christmas Day, is that it's a full blown party — and not just because of the drugs, sex, and money. It's a party because its highs are highs and its lows are lows and ultimately it spirals out of control.
We meet Wall Street mogul Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) when he's just a kid, landing his first big gig at Rothschilds in 1987. He's immediately swept away by the debauchery and opulence of the brokerage lifers, including his boss (a hilarious Matthew McConaughey).
In one of the film's first scenes, Belfort's boss takes him to lunch and maps out the road to Wall Street success: jerking off, cocaine, and playing a fixed game of Russian roulette with clients. While brief, it's an exchange that sets up Belfort's trajectory and transforms him into the vicious, pleasure-seeking wolf, who ultimately breaks off and starts his own company, Stratton-Oakmont.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a classic rags to riches tale, but as Belfort grows increasingly inebriated by success, substance, and scantily-clad women, the film becomes less about Belfort and his business and more about his lavish lifestyle. By the second act, Scorsese has gotten so wrapped up in creating the overly-saturated world of the wolf, that we lose the story of the film's main character.
In all the takes of Belfort cruising on his yacht, flying his chopper, and driving flashy, futuristic cars, not once do we see how the wolf's choices—business or personal—affect other people. His brokerage victims for one, many of whom lose their entire life savings to Stratton-Oakmont, are little more than faceless voices on the telephone that Belfort and his cronies mock and ridicule.
Where the film succeeds is in its rock solid cast. DiCaprio, McConaughey, the beautiful and seductive Margot Robbi, and Jon Bernthal all shine, as does the simultaneously loveable and hateable Jonah Hill, whose prosthetic teeth and doped-up drawls are downright hilarious. Hill's character, Donnie Azoff, is also the most real of the wolf's pack, unforgivingly hungry for money and sex and with very, very little to lose.
If you haven't heard, the film's long—three full hours that easily could be shorn down to two and a half. But, if you're into the whole party thing (and really, even if you're not) it's worth checking out.