The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Running time: 180 minutes
We all really love the “bad guy” don’t we? I just recently finished watching the series Breaking Bad, and (keeping things spoiler-free of course) I found myself having some very strange emotions towards its lead character: the washed up, ex-high school chemistry teacher turned skilled meth chef Walter White. At the beginning of the series, I loved Walter as a person. He was kind, world weary, and doing something incredibly dangerous (and doing it hilariously badly at that!) for the noble reason of preventing a crippling debt upon his family once his recently diagnosed lung cancer kills him. But by the end of the series, I hated Walter as a person. But boy did I love him all the more. Kind, noble Walter White was a compelling character; but to see him do and say some of the horrible things he does as Breaking Bad progresses, THAT was some awesome television. He was no longer a good person, not by a long shot, but he was so bad-ass and I loved it! The power, the tenacity… Walter White was almost like a god. But we all know where becoming god-like leaves us. I’ll stop here because, as promised, this is spoiler-free!
But allow me to lead this point into this week’s film!
Now Showing this week is The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and based upon the autobiographical novel of the same name written by Jordan Belfort. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Belfort, the stockbroker from the nineties who rose to being one of the wealthiest men on the planet, only to have it all start collapsing around him due to his greed and weakness for his vices of illicit drugs and sex. Beginning as a poor man brokering “penny-stocks”, Belfort quickly uses his natural skills to established a huge corporation named Stratford-Oakmont, which deals in shady stock manipulation and manic celebrations for their achievements. But the wealthier Belfort becomes, and the more his debaucherous lifestyle escalates, the more the FBI takes notice of his practices. How long can Belfort maintain this immense wealth and luxury before his criminal actions catch up to him? And what will it eventually cost him…
The Wolf of Wall Street‘s Jordan Belfort reminded me of my feelings for Walter White that I was discussing earlier. I found him to be a lovably awful person too. He was so manipulative and smug, and just so damn good at twisting innocent people into trusting him with their money, that I couldn’t help but enjoy watching him do his thing. DiCaprio’s Belfort is funny and poignant, and he speaks in such a colloquial sense that he was instantly likable, yet disgusting. But going back to the Walter White comparison again, it is almost as though Jordan Belfort took me one step further. At the beginning of the film I loved him for what a horrible person he was, but by the end of the film he had become so much more horrible that I hated him. He crossed a line somewhere in the film, I’m not positive where it was, but he crossed the line from where he disgusted me but I still respected his talents, to where I hated him for the kind of person he had become. Frankly, it was an amazing character arc, and one that the screenwriter Terence Winter, director Scorsese and DiCaprio himself should be commended for. I haven’t seen all of the Oscar nominated films yet, but I certainly believe that DiCaprio’s nomination is deserved.
The rest of the cast did an exemplary job for the most part. Jonah Hill’s performance as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s partner in crime, was very good. His comedic experience really made his manic, drug fueled self all the more believable; but he also brought a seriousness to the character that was just sublime. Margot Robbie performs well as Naomi Belfort, Jordan’s second wife, albeit her accent seemed a bit off from time to time. However, Robbie nailed the strength of her character when it really came to it, and was absolutely stunning when it came to being irresistible to Belfort. The rest of the supporting cast were all relatively good, with a few familiar faces in some of the more cameo roles. A strong point for this film I believe, for me at least, is that there was such a small cast of truly central characters and that it really used the over extended running time to actually explore them and not let the whole thing get lost with too many people going around doing too many different things. We simply don’t have the time of Game of Thrones in the world of film!
Speaking of the film’s length, it really does warrant being spoken about! The Wolf of Wall Street is long, clocking in at three hours, which is quite the slog to sit through. Don’t get me wrong, I was never bored during the entire film, but I did start to feel the story losing a bit of steam in the third act. Or given the running time and the numerous stages of the story-line, it was more like the seventh or eighth act! I stand by my statement that the length of the film did allow for some real exploration and breadth for the characters and the story; but shaving twenty minutes off wouldn’t have hurt. In the end, my advice is to go pee before the screening, and maybe don’t start drinking your obscenely large Coke until at least an hour in.
In case it wasn’t clear, I thoroughly enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese has made an excellent film here, wonderfully capturing the comedy and the darkness of the life of this drug/sex crazed, shady stockbroking genius. Through exemplary performances, clever writing, and some schizophrenic camera work, The Wolf of Wall Street took me on one heck of a ride. The mania, the excitement and the awe of all the (albeit illegal) things that Jordan Belfort did in such a short time makes for one compelling trip to the movies. So well done Martin Scorsese, you did it. I may be willing to forgive that snore-fest Hugo for this!
See you next time!