Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street (Theatrical Review)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Biography, Comedy, Crime, 179 minutes
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie

Martin Scorsese's last movie was the family-friendly Hugo, so I guess he felt the need to make something a little more controversial this time around. The Wolf of Wall Street is bold, loud, and a totally wild ride for three hours. There are more than 500 F-bombs, sex, plenty of nudity, drugs everywhere, and even a little violence.

Like Goodfellas, the movie uses voice-overs to give the audience an insight into how the characters think. We learn that Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) made $49 million when he was 26-years-old, but he's annoyed that it was $3 million short of a million per week. The story is non-linear, so we can also see how Belfort started in the business as a stockbroker, and the events that led to him owning his own company.

Belfort's initial job is terminated, and for a short while he's desperate for work. But then he takes a chance on a small local firm which claims to be in the same business as his previous company. When he arrives, the employees are sitting around in jeans. There are no computers of any kind. The stocks being traded are only worth a few cents, but the rate of commission is 50 percent. In a very convincing scene, Belfort's character makes a $4,000 sale, earning him $2,000 on the spot. The other employees can't believe what they are seeing.

This initial success enables Belfort to buy a fancy car and he attracts the attention of his neighbor, Donnie (Jonah Hill). After learning that Belfort made $72,000 the previous month, Donnie begs him for a job and quits his own immediately. Belfort is gifted at sales and convincing people to do things his way, He hires a collection of apparent losers, writes sales scripts, and teaches them how to sell. These scenes are very funny, and the whole venture succeeds brilliantly. Belfort is beginning to think anything is possible.

The movie will appeal to a large number of people because Belfort essentially has the life that others dream about. He does and says what he wants, marries a beautiful woman, lives in a huge house, and buys just about anything his heart desires. He speculates to his employees that we all want such wealth, and let's face it, the vast majority of people dream of that kind of life.

Some of the dialogue is excellent. For instance, one scene shows Belfort taking advice on dwarf tossing. He has a perfectly serious conversation about the legality of the idea, and wants to know the extent of his liabilities. Because it's serious, it's funny. One of the biggest laughs comes when we see a scene from Belfort's perspective and later learn the truth about what really happened. If you see the movie, you'll know which one I am talking about. The heavy drug use does cast some doubts about the accuracy of what we are seeing as it's mostly from Belfort's perspective.

In rather predictable fashion, these largely illegal practices eventually catch up with him. However, I won't spoil the outcome by talking about how he deals with his problems.

DiCaprio is outrageous for much of the movie. At times I thought I was watching Jack Nicholson around 40 years ago. If you recall Nicholson's performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or The Shining, the manic quality is similar to DiCaprio's turn as Belfort. If you aren't squeamish about nudity and bad language, The Wolf of Wall Street is a lot of fun. It felt as if 90 minutes had gone by when the credits rolled, but it was three hours. I can imagine watching this one over and over.

Overall score 4.5/5

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1 comment:

  1. This movie was different, brilliant and one of it's finest this generation. I kept on thinking how a movie could rise up to be so good in acting and all other criteria when it's so full of sex and humor that may be termed unnecessary. This movie will always be a classic. I absolutely loved it. Martin and Leonardo's combination just seems to be effortlessly incredible and genius. BRAVOOO... GOOD WORK!!!