Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cinematic Excess Done Right: "The Wolf of Wall Street"

            I just sat through the fastest three-hour movie of my life.  Directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” hit theatres Christmas Day 2013.  Since then, I have yet to hear one bad review.  Based on the best-selling memoir of the same name, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the second movie in the past year to portray Leonardo DiCaprio as the poster-child for the American Dream gone wild.  The overall excess of Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” distracted us from the message at hand, regardless of Leo’s quality portrayal of Jay Gatsby. Scorsese builds a cinematic roller coaster from start to finish, filled with hookers, cocaine and illegal Wall Street dealings galore. 

Jordan Belfort had it all, and lost it all, and it all is squeezed into three hours of nonstop action.    All the excess is memorizing to a fault, yet we still need to remind ourselves that it is reality.  It is in fact so real that we almost wish half of it never happened. 

            “The Wolf of Wall Street” tells the story of a New York stockbroker, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio).  His first boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) recommends adding hookers and obscene amounts of drugs to his lifestyle in order to make it big on Wall Street.  After the 1987 Rothschild crash on Wall Street, a money-hungry Belfort takes his set of skills and learns the ins and outs of selling stocks.  Soon, he develops his own firm, “Stratton Oakmont Inc.” and with the help of his friend Donnie (Jonah Hill) and father Max (Rob Reiner), he is able to take the world by storm. 

            Soon enough, Belfort lives the ultimate life of luxury.  Complete with a trophy wife (Margot Robbie), yachts, and enough drugs to sedate Manhattan for a month, he has the life anyone would kill to have.  However, as soon as he thinks he has broken enough laws and made enough money, things take a turn for the Wolf.  Soon, he puts others financial existences in danger and tries snaking his way around certain laws to get his way. 

            Regardless of your moral standards about prostitution, drugs and stockbrokers, “Wolf of Wall Street” does an excellent job of showing all three in their most outrageous form.  Quite often the three are intertwined onscreen. 

            The most unbelievable aspect about “The Wolf of Wall Street” is that everything on screen is no exaggeration from the truth.  When reading the novel I was blown away everything ongoing.  I couldn’t put the book down; it was such a page turner.  It is no wonder how Jordan Belfort was dynamic enough to be making shy of $1 million a week at one point in his life.  His charismatic nature was more than enough to make me wish I could have his moving nature.  However, his drug addiction and stock fraud is more than enough reason to not wish such tragedy upon even my worst enemies. 

The insane drug scenes and sexual parts of the film were only filmable because Warner Brothers pictures wasn’t part of the production.  Since the film was financed independently, lines were crossed and envelopes were pushed.  If it wasn’t for the MPAA’s request of Scorsese to edit certain parts of the film, “Wolf of Wall Street” could have easily had an NC-17 rating. 

Is Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance Oscar-worthy? Surely his fifth collaboration with Scorsese could earn him some gratification that he is in fact a fantastic actor.  In the past, he has starred in Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” “Shutter Island,” “The Departed,” and “The Aviator.”  Granted, I am biased. I love the man.  Every role he takes on seems to move audiences to believe he is a different persona than in the film before.  Regardless of how good or bad a film can be, Leonardo DiCaprio can be anyone on the silver screen. 

His performance in “Wolf” is no exception.  He shows a high range of acting ability, as he portrays a man who uses his power of rhetoric to sell anything and everything.  DiCaprio met onset with real-life Jordan Belfort to get some behavior coaching.  This allowed for an accurate portrayal of the stockbroker.  The two paid particular attention to the way DiCaprio had to react to the Quaaludes onscreen. 

But for some unknown reason, the Academy dislikes Leonardo DiCaprio.  It could be perhaps that he peaked too soon as an actor.  However, if that is the case, it would be hard to figure out his highest point.  His early performances, his more recent ones, and several in between were rather impressive.  Perhaps Leo just has really, really bad luck.  Regardless, he put so much energy into this film, and his collaboration with Scorsese has audiences and critics beyond satisfied. 

This film is an unforgettable one.  Where else will you find in a film with over five hundred uses of the word “fuck?”  How about one where the dialogue was improvised rather often?  With the talents of DiCaprio, Hill, and Reiner (just to name a few) it’s no surprised how they were able to keep a scene or two going.  “Wolf of Wall Street” is currently nominated for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy for the Golden Globes, along with countless other awards. 

It’s funny, because Brad Pitt had originally bid for the rights to a film version of Belfort’s memoir.  However, Leo beat him out and I cannot imagine Mr. Pitt in this film.  After seeing “Wolf,” I can honestly say it has my vote for best film this year at the Academy awards ceremony.    

1 comment:

  1. Good review Marina. Movies like this I usually love, and this one was no different. It's just three-hours long, that's all.