Martin Scorsese. One of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Almost everyone agrees. The man makes great movies that are assembled with passion and care, and he forces his actors to give some great performances.
Compared to his best films like Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, this one is not that good, but don’t get this wrong. This is a good film. It’s 3 hours long, and doesn’t feel that length at all (well, until about the ~140 minute mark, where the pace slows considerably).
The Wolf of Wall Street is the biographical account of the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a New York based stockbroker that commits large amounts of security fraud under his company, Stratton Oakmont. He is inspired by Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), who on the first day at Wall Street, tells Jordan to do lots of blow and hookers to keep himself at max productivity. On the way, he works with his key co-conspirators: Donnie (played by Jonah Hill) and his old friends who all dealt Mary Jane.
The film is a character piece that centers around Jordan Belfort, and his status as a rich bastard. The film’s genre is primarily a dark comedy, with elements of drama thrown in there. There is a lot of comedy coming from the incredibly dark statements the characters make. For example, there is a scene where a bunch of the male characters see a gorgeous woman, and one comments that “I’d let her give me AIDS”. A hilarious and shocking quote. This film has an insane amount of mature content in the form of nudity. This is the hardest nudity based R-rating I’ve seen in a long time. Lots of naked ladies, a few naked guys, and a ton of sex scenes (by the way, if anyone wants to see a little gag where Leo gets it from a dominatrix, this movie grants your wish). The movie is incredibly profane as well, recently topping this list (not including the documentary). Apparently, according to Belfort, everyone on Wall Street swears like a sailor, it’s funny how the cast delivers these.
The acting in this film is solid. Leonardo Dicaprio is playing a cocaine and Quaalude addicted stockbroker, and thus gets plenty of opportunity to do what he loves doing most, overacting and being angry! He’s very good at that, and this movie makes good use of their Leo. Jonah Hill plays his far less charming and semi-competent partner well enough. Matthew McConaughey gets 4th billing, but he has about 5 minutes of screentime. He’s amazingly memorable however. A lot of his performance seems ad-libbed and is fittingly over-the-top, which properly mirrors the behavior that Jordan develops in order to motivate his employees like his boss motivated him.
There has been some criticism towards the overly decadent lifestyle portrayed and how it’s glorified. This really shouldn’t be an issue, because the film makes it clear that Jordan is pretty much a horrible person, and he only holds the audience sympathies by being very charismatic. The lifestyle is not glorified at all, because in the film, the lifestyle contributes heavily to the destruction of his personal life. (The lesson here is that cheating is bad for you)
The film also has a nice narrative that never poorly uses the internal monologue. When Jordan wants to narrate, he simply talks directly to the camera, and this is done in the lighthearted parts of the story (so, this basically stops about the point where the FBI get on his ass), and when the movie reaches it’s dramatic points, Jordan’s thoughts become internalized.
This film has the “Scorsese feel” to it. For one, the structure feels similar to Goodfellas, though this one is a dark comedy for much longer than Goodfellas, and doesn’t get nearly as dramatic, it still has that feel. Things get darker when the criminal gets closer and closer to getting caught. Even some of the plot elements are the same, like the idea of not ratting out your friends and stuff.
Really, the main draw of this film is how damn funny it is (if you’re in the right mood that is). If I didn’t lose my voice when I was in the theater, I would’ve laughed so much. Without spoiling, some of the best gags involve Popeye, Jame Bond Villains, and cousins. Go to it, enjoy yourself. It’s a brisk film for it’s length.