The film — directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill — tells the true-life story of Jordan Belfort, “the disgraced Wall Street broker notorious for his sexual escapades and drug use,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Before the film came out, the movie received an NC-17 rating before some cuts to the film dropped it down to its current R rating, The Hollywood Reporter said. Writer of the film Terence Winter recently spoke to MTV about the film’s more disturbing scenes.
Despite its R rating, some of the scenes depicted in the film still disgusted one screenwriter, who yelled “shame on you” to Scorsese at the Academy screening for making “The Wolf of Wall Street,” according to Breitbart.com.
Scorsese, though, said the film isn’t to be taken lightly, according to The Guardian.
"It's brutal," Scorsese said, according to The Guardian. "I've seen it with audiences, and I think it plays. I don't know if it will be to everyone's taste — I don't think it will. It's not made for 14-year-olds."
Thomas Hibbs of the National Review said the film’s rating was one of the smallest issues in the film, which “fails both as art and as entertainment. Scorsese’s latest is notable only for its monotonous, self-indulgent nihilism.”
Hibbs also called the film “annoying” and denounced the film’s characters.
“Except for their rapacious energy, there is nothing really to admire in these characters and even that becomes preposterous, tiresome, and repulsive after a good hour, let alone three, of nothing but that,” Hibbs wrote.
Characters portrayed in the film have real-life connections, too. Christian McDowell — formerly Christina Prousalis and daughter of Tom Prousalis, who was put on trial for penny-stock fraud and worked with Belfort, who is portrayed by DiCaprio — wrote an open letter to DiCaprio and Scorsese, condemning “The Wolf of Wall Street” for its glamorizing and popularizing of the Wall Street life, which, she said, had many negative effects on her family.
“So here's the deal. You people are dangerous,” she wrote. “Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers' fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.”
McDowell was just one of a several people who didn’t give positive reviews. The Los Angeles Times reported that most viewers were disgruntled with the movie, but for different reasons.
“Either way, 'Wolf' is all about the American dream, or at least American greed, and the particular, related syndromes that afflict us. In that sense, the movie’s rollout is right on point. Americans are coming out and spending money. And then a few hours later, they're complaining about what they've bought," the newspaper report said.
And Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider said despite all the drugs, sex and alcohol in the film, there’s still an underlying message to be learned.
“The American dream isn't about becoming middle class and having your kids go to college, it's about becoming ridiculously rich,” Weisenthal writes, referring to the film’s message. “But the institutions that allow people to become ridiculously rich (Wall Street banks, etc.) aren't open to people with the wrong background and without the correct connections and breeding. So in light of that contradiction, the only way for normals to achieve the American dream is to find something that's in a grey area of the law.”
That idea, Weisenthal wrote, leads to the film’s biggest theme: “It makes for an inherently interesting theme of how people who lack resources (connections, education, social graces, good looks etc.) can achieve wild success.”