Dave’s Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Dicaprio is Great
Great Ensemble Acting
Very Martin Scorsese-y
There's a Monkey in People Clothes

The Bad:

3 Hours Long
Lots of Sex and Nudity
Lots of Drug Use

Cast & Crew:

Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin

Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence

As a general disclaimer before you read this review: Martin Scorsese is hands down my favorite director of all time. I am of the opinion that he’s the most talented and knowledgeable director working today and is pretty high up there on the list of best filmmakers of all time. I literally can’t get enough of Martin Scorsese. I am consistently enthralled by anything he’s involved with; features films, documentaries, discussions about film history and preservation, television commercials…anything. This year for Christmas I received not ONE but TWO signed photos of Martin Scorsese. One of my life-long dreams is to meet him and get to call him “Marty” instead of Martin. I even know which of my friends share a birthday with Thelma Schoonmaker, his longtime editing companion. To say that I enjoy Scorsese films would be an understatement, so factor that into your reading of this review. End Disclaimer.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a dark comedy that tells the real life tale of stockbroker/con-man/sleazy egomaniac Jordan Belfort who builds a dicaprio-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-2Wall Street empire from the ground up based on debauchery, misleading clients, and scamming the system through unethical and often illegal tactics only to eventually become the focus of SEC and FBI investigations that will eventually be his downfall. Thematically the film, as is the style of these hard times, shines an accusatory light on the excess, materialism, and all-around low ethical standards that seemingly rule Wall Street culture. Belfort, while certainly the focal point of the movie, is not at all portrayed as the protagonist or “good guy” of the film. In contrast to Goodfellas (a similar Scorsese film) where mob-member Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) is portrayed in a more favorable (almost heroic) light, I’m not sure you are ever really supposed to “like” Belfort. If he is the “bad guy” in this film, the “good guy” counterpart is the hard-working public that he so nonchalantly abuses and leaves in financial shambles without a second thought.

Technically this is a very well-done film that seemingly “stars” Martin Scorsese and his unique style just as much as any of the actors. There is no doubt that this is a Scorsese film. Many of the hallmarks of s Scorsese film can be seen in this meticulously crafted film. Characters talking directly to the camera, long tracking shots, exaggerated overhead lighting, beautiful slow motion shots, and even a few seemingly archaic screen wipes as a nod to the films of the past that he loves so much.

All that being said, this movie is not Scorsese’s best. It’s not bad by any means, in fact I would say I liked it quite a bit, it’s just not his best. In all fairness, saying this is not wenn5920366Scorsese’s best movie is a bit of misleading statement. It would be like saying that the “Last Supper” is not Leonardo Da Vinci’s best painting because the “Mona Lisa” is clearly better. The “Last Supper” is still a very good painting, just not his best. (Another Disclaimer: Most of my knowledge of Renaissance painters comes from Dan Brown books and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. I only have a cursory knowledge of Da Vinci paintings and in no way actually know that either of these are his best paintings. If you happen to be reading this review and are a Renaissance expert, please don’t go yelling at me about my clear lack of knowledge…it’s just an illustration.) It’s perhaps too early to tell where The Wolf of Wall Street falls in the long list of Scorsese movies. Certainly below Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Departed, and Gangs of New York but almost certainly above Shutter Island, The Aviator, Cape Fear, The King of Comedy and probably several others.

One thing becomes evident when watching Martin Scorsese’s newest endeavor, Leonardo DiCaprio has landed solidly on the list of classic, iconic, bonafide, honest-to-god Movie Stars that include other greats such as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and others. In this film DiCaprio again displays his formidable acting talent by masterfully portraying Jordan Belfort, the lying, cheating and drug guzzling central character of The Wolf of Wall Street. wolf_aDespite his ability to be charming at times, he’s depicted as greedy, superficial, crude, two-faced, sexist, unfaithful, and just all around a kind of slimy guy. DiCaprio wonderfully conveys both the slick and charming nature and the out of control drug-induced frenzy of this drug-addled con-man. There is a scene where his character is so high on quaaludes (I’m fairly certain I have never in my life typed the word quaaludes. Thanks to Google for being able to figure out what I was typing and suggesting the correct spelling) that he can barely function. The ensuing attempt to rush home to prevent his business partner from using a tapped phone is nothing short of amazing. It’s old-school slapstick comedy at it’s best, albeit with a darker undertone than most classic cinema. Clearly DiCaprio and Scorsese did their homework before filming this scene. Beyond the over-the-top physical acting, DiCaprio also does a great job at portraying the smaller, less noticeable mannerisms that can be seen in the feverish traits of drug addiction. If you haven’t picked up on it, I was very impressed by his performance in this film.

Jonah Hill is very solid in this film as Belfort’s equally slimy and out of control cohort, Donnie Azoff…despite his goofy-looking and sometimes distracting fake teeth which I Leonardo-DiCaprio-and-Jonah-Hill-in-The-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-2013understand were based on the real-life person that inspired the Azoff character. Just as one might expect, his comedic timing and improvisation are spot on. As witnessed in Moneyball, he is also quite capable of holding his own during the serious moments in the film which is always a nice surprise from an actor that very easily could have been typecast into the funny fat guy. The remaining supporting cast of Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, and that guy that’s in those questionable Arby’s commercials (yes, seriously) round out a really superb group of actors in this film.

Now that you’ve read the above glowing review, let me be clear, this movie is absolutely not for everyone. First off, while I personally never found it slow or thought it was dragging on too much, this movie is 3 hours long (and was actually cut down from an initial 4 hour version of the film). If you’re the type of person that gets bored around 90 the-wolf-of-wall-street-leonardo-dicaprio1-600x399minutes into a movie, you may skip this one. It is also rated “R” for very good reasons. It is very (very, very) crude. I’m not exaggerating here, it was nearly rated NC-17. It has far more than its share of nudity, sex (sometime fairly graphic), swearing (they apparently drop the f-bomb 506 times), drug abuse, and midget tossing (can I say midget? Is that allowed? Meh. If you are a midget reading this review and i have just offended you, I apologize. Also, send me a note. I’d love to have a midget friend. I might even stop calling midgets midgets if i had a midget friend). I wouldn’t say any of this should be unexpected in a Scorsese (who famously had his own serious drug issues in the 70’s and 80’s) film but it certainly is the most all-around graphic film he’s ever made. If you are super-offended by these sorts of things you may skip this one too.

Overall I thought this was a pretty great film. It’s a wonderful 3-hour long amalgam (Does the fact that I learned the word “amalgam” from reading comic books in High School detract from the coolness that i just used it accurately in a sentence? No? Good.) Goodfellas, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Margin Call (all three of which are great on their own if you haven’t seen them). If you can handle 3 hour running time and the graphic depravity and realize that it’s shown in order to condemn the behavior, not celebrate it, I highly recommend you check this one out.

Dave Bernard (5 Posts)

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