Though the film's detractors say it spends too much screen time depicting the hedonistic lifestyle of stockbroker and convicted fraudster Jordan Belfont, star Leonardo DiCaprio said it's intended as an "indictment" of his behavior.
“This film may be misunderstood by some; I hope people understand we’re not condoning this behavior, that we’re indicting it," the actor told Variety. "The book was a cautionary tale and if you sit through the end of the film, you’ll realize what we’re saying about these people and this world, because it’s an intoxicating one."
"It's somewhat polarizing. It's a film that's taking some chances," DiCaprio admitted in another interview with the Los Angeles Times. "But anyone who doesn't think that we are repulsed by this world is missing the point."
By no means do we condone this behavior or think of this as a way of life. But I look at the world around me, and this is our culture. This attitude is incredibly destructive and one of the most damaging things in the modern world. And we wanted people to understand our fascination with it. That, in a lot of ways, was the purpose of doing this movie.
One of the film's critics is Christina MacDowell, whose father Tom Prousalis played a role in Belfort's crimes. She penned an "Open Letter" to Scorsese and the makers of the film, charging them with "exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior.”
You people are dangerous. 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.
[Variety, The Los Angeles Times]