Israel Valencia’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Wolf of Wall Street Review
"For a brief, fleeting moment, I’d forgotten I was rich and lived in
America." - Jordan Belfort
The Wolf of Wall Street is an exhilarating film full of cocaine, hookers, sex, alcohol, greed, money, pride, and self destruction at every corner. As Martin Scorsese drives the film head on into some deep dark comedy that is extremely off the wall and not for the faintest of heart. Also he channels the direction of a young director in his 20's instead of one in his 70's, that helps create a modern Goodfellas film. Leonardo DiCaprio is front in center as he is the one man show full front embodying the insanity and tragedy that consumed Jordan Belfort's life. In other words if Project X had a dramatic and respectable cousin this would be it.
Both Scorsese and DiCaprio are at their most dynamically infectious as they chronicle the life of Jordan Baker. They work together to make an explosive dynamite chemistry that treats the audience like its clients, making the audience actually seem stupid. This is the reason why breaking the fourth wall is so influential as it helps us connect with Jordan Belfort and look up to him in a way that we are also disgusted by his actions. Also in a scene he starts talking directly to the audience about stocks but later cuts himself off as he states "you guys don't understand any of that".
As the film mocks it's audience just as it mockingly praises Belfort's actions. At first Belfort seems like a good hearted soul but as the film states Wall Street is a jungle and it truly is. Then later on Belfort is not only extremely successful but also a God like figure to his stock brokers which leads to an even greater tragic fall. Many times Jordan realizes that his actions are immoral and despicable but he is seduced time and time again into the jungle. Leading him to not only become a man addicted to sex and drugs but a man who contradicts himself several times. As he states there's no friends in Wall Street yet seems to consider loyalty and trust beyond anything.
We meet Jordan in a world where douchebags rule and kindness is dead. Yet as we get a brief look into his past we realize this is a man only following the American Dream, seeking a way to become from rags to riches. It's this side of the story that has only about 20 minutes and the same goes for Jordan's fall from dominance. Scorsese knows that the most memorable part of a person's legacy is their reign as God. That's the main reason we spend out three hour roller coaster ride focused on Jordan's reign of dominance instead of his sympathetic rags to riches story or his tragic fall from God-like stature.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the king and God of stockbrokers during this era in other words he is Jordan Belfort. Not only does DiCaprio knockout out of the park when he reacts to cocaine snorts or Quualudes. Plus he is the main attraction of the film as there is hardly any scene that doesn't involve him or include him. He is around and here to stay and it is a huge pleasure for that matter. Not only does he perfectly capture the emotions of a greed crazed billionaire, kinky sex addict, cocaine in a bottle drug addict, or corrupt minded dark hearted stock broker but also a tragic man who falls from Olympus to find he is in America. As somehow DiCaprio embodies the character so well that we can't help but root for him, pity him, be sickened of him, and envy him. There's no denying that this is one of his greatest performances, playing a modern day dictator who has the command of thousands with just a few words.
Jonah Hill plays Donnie Azoff, Jordan Belfort's right hand man, a man that is weird, loyal, and a loose cannon. As his actions depict him to be self centered and put everyone around him in danger but his emotions towards Jordan show signs of true devotion and friendship. But the main rules in Wall Street is all you have to worry is about yourself and that there's no friends in Wall Street. Plus Margot Robbie as sexy, voluptuous Naomi is such a sight to see especially after her first date with Jordan. She holds a certain sex appeal that isn't hidden beneath being the damsel in distress but a rather firm and self dependent woman who uses her assets to her advantage.
The rest of the cast such as Kyle Chandler and Matthew McConaughey certainly deliver solid performances but don't have enough time to make their performance memorable. Martin Scorsese is a dog without a leash as he goes wild and certain doesn't handle lightly Belfort's life. He takes it what it is a crazy cocaine filled life full of risks and parties. But Martin Scorsese makes a modern Goodfellas here as we see the reign of dominance of a man who at a young age knew what he wanted to be, a somebody. Yet it's the last minutes of falling from grave that the sympathy kicks in especially once a man decides to change his life; but this film is a dark comedy so it treats all it's scenes like a dark comedy even the most dramatic ones.
The Wolf of Wall Street is anything but predictable and boring as we go through a intense crazy experience that feels like you just took lemons. As Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort perfectly capturing the insanity and tragedy of his life; plus his chemistry with Jonah Hill makes it much more memorable. The film analyzes the obsession of power and America's wealth system. America is a place where the rich, no matter how morally good or bad they are, always win and that good guys that play by the book will lose. But the real question is would you sacrifice your soul to live like Jordan Belfort and that eventually your reign would end? The viewers are like the film's final audience as we pay attention to everything Jordan says and we rally with him and his stupidity when in fact we are the stupid ones; as many will think the film glorifies Belfort's actions when in fact it doesn't.
So.... Sell me this pen
Grade: A- , 3 1/2 stars