However, because of this, I had my reservations. I did expect to be disappointed by the hype - not to mention my feelings when I heard it was three hours long; that never bodes well. Even the warnings of ‘strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout’, suggested elements of the film would be a gratuitous indulgence.
My expectations were immediately quashed. After being greeted by DiCaprio as the successful stockbroker Jordan Belfort giving us a tour of his glamorous and lavish life, we flash back to how it all started. If I was expecting the glamour of Gatsby again in this portrayal, I was soon brought up short. Instead we meet an honest, eager, young stockbroker simply trying to make it for himself and live the American dream.
These first scenes of life on Wall Street are somewhat surreal. They depict the competitive - almost violent - atmosphere of the workplace, with almost more swearing than normal English words and the debauchery of drinking and snorting cocaine in office hours.
These scenes only grow more lavish, wild and debauched as Belfort becomes more successful, earning a fortune in penny stocks and setting up his own company. The parties, sex, drinking, drug use, profanity and general depravity that comes alongside all of this, seemed so ridiculous that it is hilarious. At times I was crying with laughter. But interspersed with this are more controversial moments that really get you thinking. At first they can be shrugged off as part of the hilarity - the misogynist attitudes and the un-PC culture of the time - but as the film goes on these moments become much more sobering, cutting close to neglect, abuse and violence.
You can’t help but sympathise with Jordan Belfort as played by DiCaprio, at moments he is the glamorous Gatsby figure, and when this falls apart we pity him. Then there are moments when you just absolutely hate him. Then, within a minute, you are laughing alongside his voice-over again.
The star quality of the cast isn’t an attribute in itself. There are some truly brilliant scenes, with the actors playing characters who are not only high, but utterly off their faces on drug cocktails. Take DiCaprio’s scene at the country club, when the ‘lemmons’ kick in. Accompanied again by the voice-over, Belfort squirming down the steps, into his car and driving home while utterly paralysed by the drugs, shows us a fantastic combination of brilliant acting and hilarious degradation that had the audience in stitches.
Was it too long in the end? The only reason I found it so was because of the uncomfortable need to nip to the loo about two hours in. I did see several people give in and get up, but I found the film too engaging to want to miss any. So if this is its biggest problem, we can see just how good the film was.
The brilliant thing about this film is that it is based on a real story and we even get a cameo from the real Jordan Belfort at the end. Scorsese uses his artistic license to give us a beautifully balanced film. This film sits on the fence of morality, occasionally tipping into the uncomfortable. This balance serves to prove a point about this lifestyle and so we come to question simple notions of fun, success, even the humour of the film itself. Not to mention our own morality in finding it so brilliant.