The Wolf of Wall Street Reviews
This film is downright hilarious at many points, especially when dealing in character development. Jonah Hill deserved that Best Supporting Oscar nomination, because he not only handles diverse moments of dramatic tension, but he's laugh out loud hilarious. Donnie Azoff could not have been played by a funnier person, or a better actor, and every time he's onscreen it's another chance for us to see just how removed from reality these people really are. There's also a level of opulent violence that shifts underneath the surface that we don't always see, but we know it's there. While movies like "Scarface" put the prospect of violence in the forefront of your mind, "Wolf" builds its tension over time, until characters erupt. While Belfort may not be violent towards his wife throughout most of the film, he is emotionally abusive and their fights are temperamental. It makes that much more sense when things become physical.
There were some excellent performances from many of the cast, especially DiCaprio in the lead role. While many of DiCaprio's roles kind of blend together for me, this was a truly unique, unequivocal performance. Belfort's brazen love for business, and building himself up to the highest level possible, is his undoing time and time again. He can't walk away, even when he's offered an out, only because of his pride. Even today Belfort makes his money easily, with a level of persuasion that can only be portrayed by DiCaprio. Hill is enigmatic and perfectly crazed as Azoff, Margot Robbie is a delight in her role as Belfort's second wife Naomi, Matthew McConaughey is just the right level of kooky misanthrope as Belfort's mentor in the beginning, Rob Reiner is perfect as Mad Max Belfort, a man who is always angry and always influenced by his son's schemes, and Kyle Chandler is a surprisingly entertaining choice for the FBI agent who takes Belfort down, commanding his time onscreen with a very complex and layered performance.
This isn't exactly a love letter to the world of Wall Street, or even to the lives of the rich and famous. We as the audience don't want to see Belfort succeed or fail, we just want to see what he does next. Belfort's life is so chaotic and crazed that he seems unreal in such a huge sense. Between the legions of hookers, the drugs, the money, and the antics of his entire office, the film plays more like the exploits Caligula than the playboy world of a charlatan like Belfort. For many, they found no insight into the moral capacity of the character. Without morality critics decided that this was a hollow perspective intent on showing indulgence. I disagree heartily, and would argue that this is much more a character study than anything. There's solid humor to this film, there's a decent level of character development, and for what it's worth, there doesn't need to be a moral. Scorsese shows us that these men exist, and they are getting away with everything, to the point where they can brag about it. Scorsese doesn't want us aligning ourselves with the likes of Belfort, and he certainly isn't legitimizing the exploits of his company. He set out to make a "ferocious" film, and he did just that, creating a black comedy that shows what modern day indulgences look like, and how they are being employed by everyone and anyone who can get their hands on their version of the American Dream.
I know it's sacrilege to say this, but Michael Bay got it right in Pain & Gain. Another film with lots of sex, drugs, and partying, but it moves the story along more efficiently. For example, when Paul Doyle (the Rock) gets addicted to drugs, he loses all his money which then causes the group to execute another illegal operation. It advances the story and presents us with another conflict.
In The Wolf of Wall Street, there's really no major conflict. The FBI is involved but it feels too much in the background as Scorsese wants all the partying to be the main focus. This then makes the climax feel rushed (if that silly boat scene was the climax). Although, I did like Jordan going undercover and found those parts to be interesting.
Seeing more of the inner workings of the corrupt side of the business would have been nice, but what we get is way too brief. Another issue is that all the characters lack depth, maybe aside from Belfort. It's not that they are unlikable, but that they are uninteresting and don't change throughout the film. Everyone is boring as hell.
There's no substance to the film and overall it's a waste of time. I wanted a story with better conflicts and stronger character development, not a bunch of endless nonsense that really equates to nothing. All the partying isn't even related to the corruption of his business and the FBI involvement, which is where the focus should have been. "We're coming after you because you party too hard!" Also, how about showing us the victims of Belfort's operations, showing us more of what he did? The film doesn't know what it wants to be. A big pointless party? Or a crime film like we somewhat got in the last 30 minutes or so? The latter would have been nice, but instead we mostly get nonsense.
This is Scorsese at, basically, his wildest and most excessive, and that's not a bad thing at all.
Based on his memoirs,, this is a portrait of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort's rise to and fall from prominence during the 80s and 90s. He got super wealthy mostly from penny stocks, and he lived large off the profits. And how he spent his money was basically to go all out on booze, drugs, and women.
This film now holds the record for most f bombs in a non-documentary feature with 504 utterances, and it also has some truly eye popping scenes of debauchery. An example: the first five minutes feature midget tossing, road head, and cocaine being blown into a prostitute's rectum. And that's just the opening 5 minutes. There's 2 hours and 55 minutes left. And it only gets crazier from there.
Obviously, this has generated a ton of controversy, however, it is justifiable and necessary. This is a film about excess, so the only way to do it justice is to do it excessively.
Leonardo DiCaprio is in top form as Belfort, giving what is easily one of his top 3 best performances so far. As his right hand man Donnie Azoff, Jonah Hill gives one of his career best turns as well. In a number of smaller roles and cameos we get to see people like Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Spike Jonze, and Ethan Suplee. As Belfort's second wife we get newcomer Margot Robbie, who sheds her Aussie accent for a Jersey one, and really makes a great impression. None of the performances are bad, and these people all seem to have some great chemistry together, especially considering how a lot of the dialogue (minus the big speeches) was heavily improvised.
This is a really long film, and yeah, you'll feel exhausted when it;'s over, but it's actually quite a breezy film that hardly ever lets up. Terrence Winter's script is witty, fierce, and is well paced. Thelma Schoonmaker delivers her trademark goods with some fantastic editing, and ,being a Scorsese film, of course it's well shot and has some dynamite tracking shots, long takes, great music, and brilliant sequences throughout.
The best scene in the film is a 15 minute mini epic where Jordan is whacked out on some especially potent quaaludes and has to try to perform some damage control. The set up is fairly simple, but, given his condition, it becomes a real chore. The scene could be looked at as a horror piece, but is amazingly funny, with some superb physical comedy from Leo and Jonah.
And that's basically the film overall. It's got awful people doing awful things, but the film is a comedy. It's a very dark one, sure, but I can't stress how funny so much of this is. Granted, it does get pretty dramatic at times, but overall, it's fun. You should hate these characters, and you kinda do, but they're so damn persuasive, charming, and charismatic, you really have to kind of admire them.
Definitely give this one a look. It's a wonderful kind of whacked out, over the top epic.
And three words regarding the Oscar for Best Actor: Leo was robbed.
Nevertheless the The Wolf is quite good, with some amazing characterizations (Mconaughey? Perfect) and pretty enticing plot points. Unfortunately when all is said and done the life of Belfort is a little too sprawling to really come together in anything very cohesive. It's definitely the dynamic gags that keep our attention which in a way can just come off gimmicky taking the whole style over substance route.
That being said the underlying theme or message appears to be that "what goes up must come down." Whether it be due to character flaws (Dicaprio), the blundering mistakes of your loved ones or having loved ones (Hill and Robbie) or the world order just coming to right itself (Denham).
In the end the poor man's path to power and inevitable fall from it can be a pretty fun watch. Granted, I'd take this over any of "The Hangover" movies for sure.
Leonardo DiCaprio is Jordan Belfort, a married, seemingly idyllic New York stockbroker who takes a job with an established Wall Street firm. By chance, he is noticed by his Boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, in a memorable minor appearance) who takes him under his wing and advises him to adopt a steady lifestyle of sex and drugs in order to succeed. Not before long, "Black Monday" hits, leaving Jordan without a job and with little options. His wife pressures him into taking a job with a small Long Island firm who's penny stock dealings are of the shady variety. His aggressive knack for the scam amount him a fortune, and it's not long before he along with new found friend and all-around oddball Donnie (Jonah Hill) open their own firm "Stratton Oakmont," ambitiously scamming their way to the top. This soon gets the attention of Forbes (who label Jordan The Wolf of Wall Street) and inevitably the FBI.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" is completely outrageous, hilarious, perverse, vulgar, and brilliant. In it's three hours of (mostly) depravity, it gets away with things that R-rated films usually don't or wouldn't even try. But this is no mere waltz in exploitative muck. There's a method to this madness sure, but a point as well. It's an exquisitely naughty satire... a send up that is to corporate and systemic corruption what "Taxi Driver" is to suppressed rage in the face of a collapsing infrastructure. The dark comedy of Terence Winter's script effectively cutting just as deep as the rebel yell of Paul Schrader's opus.
Belfort is essentially a scumbag who embodies a lot of what's wrong with the western world (as does the film itself), but this degenerate provides the perfect vessel for what is arguably Leonardo DiCaprio's best performance. The guy's a marvel to watch. We should hate him, but we never do and attentively watch his unbelievable story unfold for 180 minutes. That's a credit to DiCaprio's endlessly likable presence and under-appreciated range. He balances the comedy, the dramatics, the intensity; commanding the screen in a way few could. Look to the already classic, as well as horrifyingly hilarious "Quaaludes" scene (THE scene of 2013) for definitive proof of his brilliance. Jonah Hill (surprisingly Oscar nominated for his role) is really strong here as is the pitch-perfect cast in it's entirely, including Margot Robbie, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, and most notably Kyle Chandler who's federal agent Denham emerges as our moral compass through the sleaze.
"The Wolf of Wall Street," a remarkable directorial achievement, is above all else a masterpiece of pacing. This is a three-hour epic, but you'd never know as it flies by like a picture half it's length. The film maintains a sense of urgency so that even extended scenes are played snappy and breeze by. The film spits so much quick fire information that a mere bathroom break would throw a viewer so out of the loop that catching back up would feel impossible. It's marvelous to behold how Scorsese is able to stuff every frame with so much detail and never have it overwhelm or feel like graphic overkill. Like "Goodfellas" and "Casino" we are more than happy to soak all of this in. Despite the potentially off-putting motivations and actions of these characters, Scorsese captures glimpses of humanity while entertaining the hell out of us at the same time.
Comparisons made to "Goodfellas" and "Casino" should not only be acknowledged but welcome. Those are two of Marty's very best films, and in time I have an inkling that "The Wolf of Wall Street" will be held in similarly high regard.
Now the hot button issue. Is "Wolf" a celebratory picture glorifying a culture of corporate thievery, rampant carnality, and hardcore drug use? Some might feel this way, but they have either been seduced by the events portrayed or have refused to read between the line... missing the entire point in the process. That's not the fault of the film or it's makers, but select audiences that consume entertainment at face value alone.
For it's incendiary screenplay, wicked sense of humor, on point performances, outstanding editing, and typically stellar direction from the master, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is frankly a phenomenal film that can't be ignored. It's the fastest three-hours in the history of cinema.
"The wolf of Wall Street" is the best picture of 2013.