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I saw The Wolf of Wall Street
January 21, 2014Posted by on
The fifth film collaboration between legendary director Martin Scorsese and celebrated actor Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the real life rise and fall of Wall Street upstart and convicted criminal Jordan Belfort. It is an explicit film fraught with sex and drugs, and it is a pretty glorious affair. Directed with the touch of a master and filled with mesmerizing performances (including co-star Margot Robbie – who is about to get a lot more work – as Belfort’s wife Naomi), The Wolf of Wall Street is also one of the best films of 2013. It is funny, engaging, entertaining, and eminently watchable. A few flaws, however, keep it from truly standing out, but it is perhaps my favorite latter day Scorsese film.
DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, and the film essential follows his life over a five-year period. Belfort begins as a young analyst for an established firm on Wall Street, where big boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) takes a shine to him, inviting him to lunch and giving him the insider’s scoop on the life of a successful broker. The firm eventually collapses, and Jordan, on the brink of financial ruin, begins working for a small-time firm and eventually begins his own business based on his experiences selling penny stocks. The film then focuses on Belfort’s attempts to fit in with the big boys on Wall Street, chronicling his eventual downfall both at work and in his family life.
DiCaprio’s performance throughout The Wolf of Wall Street is magnificent. It is a mature, nuanced performance that is highly entertaining. He is electrifying as Belfort, capturing the screen like few in Hollywood can do. It is interesting that DiCaprio would play two very similar characters in less than a year (His role in The Great Gatsby is fairly similar to Belfort) and yet his performance in each could be so different. It is unfortunate that the controversy behind the film may keep DiCaprio from winning the Best Actor Oscar, as will his perceived youth from the Academy (the baby-faced actor is only 39 – the average age of the last 5 Best Actor winners is something like 52).
My main criticism of The Wolf of Wall Street is that it is an incredibly explicit film, even when it doesn’t really need to be. Everything is over the top, and Scorsese, along with screenwriter Terence Winter, come awfully close to glorifying the horrific lifestyle Belfort lives. His drug abuse alone would be enough to cripple most able-bodied men, but he is also a sex addict, white-collar criminal, and suffers from intense bouts of rage, withdrawal, and paranoia. I don’t feel like the filmmakers condone Belfort’s lifestyle in the end, but truth be told it looks like a helluva lot of fun to do some of the fantastic things Belfort allegedly did (without the defrauding people out of millions of dollars part of course).
The Wolf of Wall Street is also an incredibly long film at three hours, and I can only watch people do drugs and party for so long before it gets kind of tedious. Fortunately DiCaprio’s performance is so electrifying that the film, and Belfort himself, is never boring. There are also portions of the film that I feel could have been edited better, and I do feel the film suffered a bit from a lack of post-production in places. It had original been scheduled to release into theaters in November, but was pushed back for editing purposes. The end result is just fine, but the editing doesn’t quite match the otherwise high levels of quality throughout the film.
This is a pretty great movie. I was surprised by just how fun and funny it is. DiCaprio is absolutely electrifying, and Scorsese has made perhaps his best film since Goodfellas (I was not a fan of Gangs of New York and The Aviator and The Departed are good but not great films – the less said about Shutter Island the better). The Wolf of Wall Street is an explicit film featuring gratuitous nudity and drug abuse, and though this is excitingly filmed and entertaining to watch, it does get somewhat tedious by hour three. Ignore the controversy behind the film as well – The Wolf of Wall Street does not condone the actions of Belfort whatsoever. Scorsese and DiCaprio give cinematic life to a complicated character in a movie based on a real life tragedy and the end result is highly entertaining.