The Wolf of Wall Street ★★★★★

I think George Carlin once said something like "there's nothing less impressive than a businessman," and it really is true. They don't really contribute anything of lasting value, no one really loves them, and once they die they are alternately forgotten and despised in a ratio that starts out weighted towards the latter and slides inexorably toward the former. So why do so many people want to do what they do? Besides the obvious material comforts, I imagine that for a lot of people the appeal is very similar to morphine's: It's fucking awesome.

Half of the brilliance of this movie is that it's not afraid to depict that, in a way that's exciting and hilarious (this is by far Scorsese's funniest movie, and I feel like a schmuck now for suggesting American Hustle was different from his stuff because it's so funny, I probably laughed 50x more during this). But the other half is just as crucial - the shifts into "not fucking around anymore" gear are incredibly bracing, as tense and viscerally horrifying as any of the much more (physically, anyway) violent movies of Scorsese's career. Punches are not pulled for the sake of laughs, quite the opposite. Just one example: The throwaway gag about one of Jordan's early recruits marrying the office tramp (I would say that's the film's terminology but I don't remember what exact phrase it used to describe her, that's how not sexist I am OK, I respect women so much that I don't even remember what specific words are used to insult them, that's true respect for women right there) is immediately followed up by the reveal that he went on to commit suicide three years later, complete with a shot of his bloody bathtub. I was in the middle of laughing at his awkward wedding photo and my laughter was caught in my throat - THAT'S when I started to realize what Scorsese was going for here, and that's when I stopped subconsciously dismissing this as some trifle Marty tossed off in his sleep. This is heavy stuff, and that's just the beginning, a taste of what's to come in order to get you hooked. And trust me, this shit is never going to expire.

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