Whenever ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is mentioned, ‘feminist’ may not always be the word that one would use to describe it. Actually, ‘feminist’ is not exactly the way in which I would illustrate Martin Scorsese’s movies, due to his usual lack of focus on female characters in his many pieces, but his latest offering provides us with something that I had hardly expected in a story of greed, indulgence and downfall told by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. What it gives us is Naomi Belfort, played by the worryingly underrated Margot Robbie, the second, long-suffering wife of Jordan and a powerful force that subtly yet unashamedly strips away the idea of male domination in the home. While there can be absolutely no doubt that, ultimately, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is a narrative of alcohol, drugs and debauchery, it is also the previously untold account of the female figure that takes on a role far more complex and intriguing than that of the actual protagonist.
As enjoyable as Jordan’s drug-fuelled journey through the self-obsession within yuppie culture is, for me, this is not what made this movie so appealing to me. Even a roaring soundtrack and that beautiful face of Leo’s could not create a distraction for what I found was the finest achievement of the film. Often, Jordan tends to brush off Naomi’s concerns about his various addictions and infidelities but, in return, she refuses to relent and, instead, she proves that she is more than a match for his manipulation and endless webs of lies. Jordan’s eventual collapse may create empathy towards him for some but, in my opinion, it only strengthens my view of Naomi’s character, as she files for divorce after many years spent as Jordan’s last resort when his barricade of loopholes begins to collapse around him, suggesting an admirable level of bravery even as he blindly accuses of her of leaving him only when he has lost everything, including his dizzying income. Despite Jordan’s abuse, which becomes both verbal and emotional, Naomi stands by what she believes is right, rather than her ‘dear’ husband, and protects her children from the self-destruction that Jordan creates as the world upon which he has built his ideals and his security caves in. Her decision to defend herself and her family against the bullying that Jordan inflicts upon her is one of the greatest made in the entire movie, as it conveys the concept of bravery in a way that is almost entirely unexpected. When it came to it, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ picked up several nominations and although it struggled to convert many of these into actual awards, DiCaprio deservedly picked up a Golden Globe for his skilful portrayal of an ordinary man, seduced by the temptations of the absurdly wealthy and the unimaginable success that leads to his ultimate ruin. However, I feel that Margot Robbie has been cheated out of the praise she deserves for her role as the true powerhouse of the story. Critics have lauded DiCaprio, alongside Jonah Hill, and, while both are wholly worthy of this honour, a mistake has most definitely been made in a refusal to acknowledge the courage shown by Naomi in her attempts to curve Jordan’s expenditure and neglect. The strength that she displays throughout the film is far greater than any shown by the males of the piece.
If you intend to watch ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ then, by all means, immerse yourself entirely in the decadence of yuppie culture and indulge in the glamorisation of Jordan’s questionable lifestyle but take notice of the subtlety with which Naomi denies his desire by becoming much more than just his trophy wife.
By Hannah Ryan
Categories: Feminist Criticism