The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street ★★★★½

Only Martin Scorsese would make a movie made in 2013, set in the 90s and 2000s, and use a score of 50s and 60s blues music, and have it work perfectly.

I've never been one to like extremely long movies, but when done right, a movie can fly by, no matter what the actual run time was, and that is exactly what The Wolf of Wall Street was like. Scorsese has crafted a film that is not only a scathing criticism of Wall Street excess, but also an extremely funny crowd pleaser; I'm not sure if I've had this much fun in a theatre in a long time. Although not quite to the level of Goodfellas or Taxi Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street is definitely Scorsese's best in recent memory.

American's best and brightest have joined the ranks of Wall Street, and 21 year old Jordan Belfort(Leonardo DiCaprio) wants a piece of the action. After securing an entry level job with a large bank, veteran broker Mark Hanna(Matthew McConaughey) takes Jordan under his wing. Mark explains that while making money for a customer may be nice, its keeping them tied up in investments and making yourself lots of commission money that's really important. Recommending a sex and cocaine fueled regimen, Hanna's philosophy becomes Belfort's, even as Belfort finds himself out of a job as a result of Black Monday and Saving and Loans Crisis's. Desperate, Belfort takes a job in a scummy brokerage business on long island, selling penny stocks to blue collar workers. Using his superior skill set and way with words, Belfort brings in significantly more money than anyone else, and decides to set out on his own, with a rag tag bunch un-professionals led by Donnie Azoff(Jonah Hill). However, its when Belfort decides to rebrand his lowly penny stock company as the high end "Stratton Oakmont", that things really get going, and soon, Belfort and crew are knee deep in hookers, cocaine, and cash, while their business engages in increasingly more profitable, and illegal, ventures.

One criticism that I heard going into this film, is that many viewers found that Scorsese was glorifying rather than villainizing Belfort and his associates. While I would disagree with that overall, the film doesn't paint anyone in the film particularly positively, Scorsese definitely did not hold back in portraying the glamour and the excess of the super rich in the most flattering and unflattering ways. For every house, there is a mountain of cocaine, for every Ferrari, there is 100 hookers. You thought the excess of the mobsters in Goodfellas was a lot, wait until you see Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese's choice to make The Wolf of Wall Street a dark comedy is really the only choice for a film like this. All of these scenes are so over the top, its amazing to think that it could be real, but the film, especially the excellent performances, keep it from becoming tacky or cheesy. DiCaprio obviously had the biggest role in the film, and he nailed it. Doing what I think is an at least subconscious Nicholson tribute, his slick and slimey Jordan Belfort is hilarious, infuriating, and tragic. You laugh as he does blow off a stripper's ass, feel for him as his life falls apart, and become angry at him every time he escapes any sort of real punishment, especially during the film's ending. It is the best role of his career, and even though I'm not the biggest Leo fan, he was on fire, and it would be a travesty if he isn't at least nominated for Best Actor. The supporting cast is phenomenal too, and there is not a bad performance. While it would be too much to go over all of them, everyone, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Cristin Milioti, and P. J. Byrne, among others, did a fabulous job. However, the two supporting actors that stood out the most were Jonah Hill and newcomer Margot Robbie. Though Hill isn't quite Joe Pesci great, his performance as Belfort's vice president, and supporting comic relief character is excellent, and he brings just the right amount of intensity, and sly comedy needed for the role. However, the best supporting performance by far was Margot Robbie. Beyond the fact that is physically attractive, she did a fabulous job as the sexy, but slightly more grounded wife of Jordan Belfort. In a film full of excess, she actually gives one of the more nuanced performance as the typical abused Scorsese housewife. Belfort's wife is probably the most human character in the whole film, and she definitely delivers. She doesn't seem to have much of a history prior to the film, but I sure hope Margot Robbie has a long career ahead of her.

My only slight complaint is that I thought the editing of the film was a little ADHD, meaning fewer elegant tracking and steadicam shots, and more quick edits. Its definitely a Scorsese film, but I wouldn't put Wolf as one of his better looking. The run time could also probably have been trimmed without much consequence, although the three hours move by pretty quickly, so that's a fairly minor point. However, as a whole, The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese at his best, and the way he tells the troubling and frustrating story of wildcat financial institutions and Wall Street greed, is funnier, and more tragic, than any gangster film. A must watch, and my film of year so far. You will get your money's worth.

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