The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Terence Winter
Martin Scorsese has a knack and keen ability for making villains or just horrible people out to be humans one sympathizes with and almost roots for to win. In his Oscar nominated film, The Wolf of Wall Street, we may not entirely agree with the decisions that the main character makes, but we sure as hell get drawn into his world and magnetism.
The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). He was ruthless and desired one thing above all, to be rich. He quickly landed a job on Wall Street as a stockbroker and learned the ins and outs of not only stocks, but how to prey on the emotions of people to manipulate them and take their money.
He opens his own brokerage firm with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and creates a boiler room company that sells penny stocks and hires his own hoodlum friends to join in on the scheme. He names the firm Stratton Oakmont, with a lion as a mascot, the company sounds intelligent, grounded and financially smart, at least to most people who know nothing about stocks and trading.
Gordon Gecko said, “The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” and Belfort would undoubtedly agree with him. Set in the 90’s the film is just on the heels of the time when the Gordon Geckos of the world ruled and not only is greed the motivating factor for all the debauchery that ensues it is also the downfall of his empire.
The movie takes the viewer on a wild ride of drug usage; think snorting lines off a hooker’s behind and gulping Quaaludes down with booze. Most of which is done at work and on the house as Belfort offers up pleasures one could desire in between phone calls and lunch breaks and promises Chanel suits and expensive cars over his daily motivational work meetings. These temptations make his employees work harder to acquire those material goods and money, only further entangling the people on the other line with emptying out their pockets to them.
What Scorsese delivers is a ride along with Belfort that would please Bacchus himself. He utilizes wide shots where the viewer is able to encompass everything that is going on from a marching band entering on the right to people having sex in a corner. It’s as if we are viewing the world literally through Belfort’s eyes, taking it all in and wanting more each time.
The film is narrated by Belfort which is an interesting directorial choice, but one that we have seen before with Scorsese. Similar to the format of Goodfellas, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) narrates the entire film and we get a first hand perspective as to what was going on in his head and what drove his decisions to do awful acts and conspire with gangsters. This narrative device works similarly in this movie because the story that plays out is Belfort’s; it is what he believed happened and what drove him to live this type of lifestyle.
The actors in this film are superb, DiCaprio, Hill, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal (yes Shane from TWD), to name a few, all do a great job at capturing the essence and feelings of people who are living lives filled with greed, both the people making the money and those who partake of the riches. Margot Robbie plays Belfort’s second wife Naomi, she really takes what could have been a simplistic character to another level. She is raw and gritty and a great newcomer to Hollywood.
DiCaprio is phenomenal; he is able to capture every nuance and feeling of the character and to take it to another degree. In one way, this almost reminded me of his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, he really pushes himself to delve deep into the character and gets at the heart of the emotions of the story and seemingly delivers it with ease. Although Belfort is a thief, DiCaprio plays him as charming and has this appeal that would make anyone want to his dirty deeds for him.
Hill is like a firecracker on screen, you let go of the firecracker and you want to see more, you want to see it explode and he does just that, to the point that we forget it is Hill himself. The guy who did stoner-boner movies has now turned into a bonafide actor and plays off DiCaprio just perfect as his big-toothed sidekick.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie was in the beginning when Belfort was still green and he goes to lunch with his new boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who schools him on how the world of Wall Street works. What makes this scene priceless is the presence of McConaughey, who although just appears for a cameo part, really sets the tone for the entire film. The way Belfort admiringly looks at him when he beats his chest and snorts cocaine is so odd, yet fascinating. Did you know that McConaughey was just doing that in between takes, but it ended up getting used for the film?
Overall great movie, I don’t think it could have beat out 12 Years A Slave, it was bad timing, maybe had it been another year, Scorsese, Winter and DiCaprio could have won, but this year it was just too tough. If you haven’t seen it and you waited forever like I did (like I always do), go do yourself a favor and check it out.