“The Wolf of Wall Street”
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti
Biography, Comedy, Crime
Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street is a bombastic raunchfest spilling over with feverish humor and held in place by vibrant direction from Martin Scorsese and unhinged performances from its gifted cast. Sprawling and episodic, this “greed is great” epic is not only the funniest movie of the year, not only has one of the most outstanding performances in recent history, and not only is one of the most explicit films to hit the theaters under the guise of an R-rating, but, like icing on the proverbial cake, it offers a colossally poignant and timely cultural deconstruction of the financial institutions on which our country depends. And though it runs for exactly three hours, I’d watch this strung-out saga again in a second. A messy masterpiece on all fronts, The Wolf of Wall Street is a towering achievement.
We know that reality is often stranger than fiction but Scorsese’s encapsulation of the world of Jordan Belfort and his scurrying dervishes is like lifting a rock to find a thriving hive of ants equipped with Tony Montana-worthy piles of cocaine and strippers decked out in ever-fashionable neon beneath. Their iniquitous ways the stuff of adolescent male fantasies and their drug-fueled, deranged shenanigans straight from a Hunter S. Thompson memoir, Belfort is a modern day Dionysus. Taking the mantle of this larger-than-life imp of an investment banker, Leonardo DiCaprio is unholy goodness.
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of DiCaprio’s and a performance like this proves my continued faith in the multifarious thespian. Ranging from manic to disturbed, possessed to contemptible, his commanding performance scraps subtly for an off-the-walls buffet of theatrics. And though he never quite swallows the pill of reality, Belfort’s arc is splattered in sober doubt and drug-fueled confidence, always anchored by a megalomaniac’s grip on the destiny of those in his company. Twisting what it means to be generous, he takes from the rich and poor alike and distributes the riches amongst his legions of fanboy-like employees.
But for his however ethically corrupt he is, he’s got his own twisted sense of morality, at once misanthropic towards the world at large and a gentle guardian of his own flock of flunky stock pushers. His minions, led by a brilliantly toothy Jonah Hill, see him as the God he wants so badly to be.
Around the workplace, they call Belfort Wolfie; a nickname derived from his bullying brokering and his pick-up-the-scraps mentality. And as penny-stock pushers, Belfort and his henchmen turn scraps into millions, spinning gold from floss. Their office a carousal, Wolfie and Co.’s imperious rise to power is just too heinous to make up.
Beneath DiCaprio’s frantic and telescopic work as Belfort is a man feeding off his own energy. No matter how deluded Belfort can be, he’s a guy caught up in the moment, too high to not ride the waves of his own self-invented success. As an audience, we feed off the surge of energy too and let it drive us from scene to scene, always the intrigued voyeur.
And like a pitch-perfect backup singer, Hill’s Donnie Azoff (based on over-the-counter stock broker Danny Porush, who threatened to sue if they didn’t change his name) is the wind beneath DiCaprio’s wings. From the first time he steps onscreen, he demands our attention with his mammoth chompers and sleazy Long Island accent. He’s got sidekick so down pat that he may as well be the piggy Robin to Belfort’s wicked Batman. And no matter how brief his appearance is here, Matthew McConaughey is once again on fire. As a steadfast FBI agent, Kyle Chandler also breaks out of his comfort zone and puts in a performance worthy of such an accomplished cast.
Though lots of names have been tossed around for award recognition, Hill will assuredly be seeing his second (and here, more deserved) nomination for his work. His unique blend of drama and comedy is a staggering success and has knocked any skeptics off the fence in one fell, chompy swoop. And while DiCaprio’s performance here is a show for the ages, it may again go overlooked by the notoriously antiquated Academy. Regardless, he is the king of Hollywood and has proved it in spades with his astonishing work in Wolf.
But it’s not the performances alone that shine, as the movie flows smooth as butter. Looking at it as a whole, I wouldn’t want a single scene cut and that’s a testament to the seductive power of Scorsese’s film. With well over 500 counts of the f-bomb and enough female and male genitalia to perturb the most hip of parents, do be sure that you’re attending The Wolf of Wall Street with the right parties. This ain’t your grandma’s Scorsese.