Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
I knew going into the year that The Wolf of Wall Street was going to compete with American Hustle for "the most Scorsese film released this year." After seeing WoW and preparing myself for American Hustle I decided to look at some reviews for the both of them and found a startling line from Christy Lemire's review of Hustle on RogerEbert.com.
"David O. Russell out-Scorseses Martin Scorsese with American Hustle.."
Now, I haven't seen that film yet but I am fresh off of two viewings of WoW and if any of the reviews here on Letterboxd are any indication, Russell has some serious catching up to do. Christy Lemire is insane.
Martin Scorsese has out-Scorsesed Martin Scorsese.
Isn't that a refreshing name to say here in 2013? The aging controversial auteur has become fairly docile in the past couple years and I hate to be "that guy" but I think Wolf of Wall Street is a triumphant, loud, brazen, side splitting, excessive return to form for one of American cinemas most valued treasures. Seeing the hordes flow into the theater for a Martin Scorsese film filled my heart with just a tiny bit of faith in the current general audience. But those thoughts were about to become moot. Soon after we all sat down we were whisked away from our boring Midwestern AMC movie theater and taken to a time and place on Wall Street where excess was a lifestyle and our main character is introduced to us getting head in a Ferrari and soon after that, blowing coke out of a hookers asshole.
By the end of the film these two scenes become child's play. Over the course of 3 hours, the life of wealthy stock broker Jordan Belfort is examined with lightning quick pacing rarely ever slowing down except for the need to create drama every once in a while. The film, emulating the book of the same name, looks at virtually every faucet of Jordan's life both good and bad. But mostly bad. Leonardo DiCaprio brings to life a cinematic badboy the likes of which we rarely see in such a mainstream film. I've never really been a believer in Leo, but Christ this film has some of the best physical acting from an actor I've ever seen. I don't know if its content will win it any big awards come Oscar season but fuck if Leo and Hill don't at least get nominations. Their scummy, unbelievably douchey performances are my personal highlights of 2013. I could watch that cousin fucking conversation 300 times and still die of laughter. I've always admired Hills comedic timing but here its paired with gut bustingly hilarious mannerisms that make his and Leos conversations, both sober and high, an absolute riot. This is by far Scorsese's most humorous film to date. Rarely anything is taken seriously and its edited in a way to make it seem like a satirical infomercial take on a biography. Stock footage. Commercial cut-ins. Advertisements. The film is like a raunchy visual guide to being a modern alpha male and it goes to places only a filmmaker like Scorsese could pull off with such confidence. I can't say everything I want to say about the content of this film because it would be ruining some key moments and frankly, I'm still remembering certain scenes days later. There is just so much to guzzle down. Each frame is packed with so much visual information and it moves so lightning quick when you walk out you feel like you've lived a whole lifetime flashing before your eyes in x3 speed. When you can get past the gay orgies, public masturbation and something called "the Cerebral Palsy Phase" you will find one of the most daringly brilliant films of this generation. The fucking stones on Scorsese to release this on such a large scale....
Some of the criticisms for this film revolve around this perception of a thin story and weak character depth. My opinion on that is this:
Scorsese is a man that doesn't just "forget" those things. Having given us characters like Travis Bickle, Jake La Motta and Tommy DeVito, Scorsese doesn't seem like the guy to deliberately skip on character. I think Jordan is effective as a warped perception of the modern male role model. He is a frightening warning sign and stand in for the current state of affairs for greed, consumerism, and excess. The film takes place mostly in the Reagan era, but now is a good time as any to heed the warnings that WoW preaches. Its dressed up like good, fun time, and it is, but the film has a darker side that will sink its claws into you deep. Where Goodfellas focuses on criminals of old; playing the game for honor, family and blood, Wolf of Wall Street focuses on the modern criminals obsession with superficial pleasures and living large. The film even asks what the modern average joe would do and how he would live if hundreds of millions of dollars fell into his lap tomorrow. Want your answer? Look at Hills character. Its a good antithesis or companion piece to Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece and they both examine a specific time and place through the eyes of the initiated. Jordan's story is told entirely from his perspective so naturally it comes across as one big party filled with sex, sleaze, and spending while moments of real drama are to us like they were to him:
Just speed-bumps on the way to fun.
Scorsese's romp of a film is not as emotionally complex as 12 Years a Slave or as humanistically brilliant as Before Midnight but it nails its own unique style and brand of film making while further establishing an auteurs status as one of the worlds greatest. There is no other director living or dead who has mastered pacing like Martin has. Scorsese's films may not be as intellectually stimulating as other directors works, but he is one of my biggest heroes nonetheless. The way people poured into that theater to witness a real piece of film making was inspiring on so many levels.
Its dirty, its sleazy, its unlike anything you've seen.
Its one of the years best and definitely the most entertaining film of the year. See it 1000 times.