Monday, January 6, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie
Director: Martin Scorsese
Running Time: 2 hours, 59 minutes
Rating: R

"The Wolf of Wall Street" has taken my #1 spot as movie of the season, if not the entire year. As brilliant, soulless money-schemer Jordan Belfort, this is Leo at his finest, but if it weren’t Leo, I'm not certain I would have loved the movie quite as much as I did. It's hard to believe that this is a true story. The supporting cast rocks, and the film is classic Scorsese. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch this film in awkward company (ie. parents, first date, younger siblings). The things these characters do and say will make your cheeks burn with embarrassment. As for the lengthiness of the film, every scene is appropriate, so it’s hard to tell you a time to get up and go to the bathroom. Everything is pertinent. Scorsese made the final cut 2:59, cutting an hour’s worth of film, which I'd actually really like to see.

As per usual with Scorsese, we are thrust into a chaotic moment, then the scene freezes and we are introduced to the narrator - "My name is Jordan Belfort," and we know who we'll be dealing with for the next 2 hours and 59 minutes. The film is also saturated with slow-motion shots, and Belfort continually breaks the fourth wall with his direct talking to the camera. One typical Scorsese element was missing: the use of "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones.

Belfort arrives to NYC bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to jump into a career on Wall Street. Matt McConaughey is memorable in his 10 minutes of screen time, teaching Belfort the attitude he needs to survive as a trader - and surprise! - it includes lots of booze, drugs and sex. It's the sign of a good actor when you can't tell one is acting, but every movie I see McConaughey in, it seems he appears as his usual cocky self. Not that that's a bad thing.

Belfort is a genius, incredibly smart and driven, but we are absolutely disgusted with him. We can't imagine what he will get away with next. It's hard to fathom this amount of greed, luxury and wealth, but we can't look away. I suppose the folks who walked out of the theatre could in fact look away, but if you don't like classic Scorsese - "Goodfellas," "Casino," "The Departed," "Gangs of New York," - then why did you think you'd like this movie?

Newcomer Margot Robbie is Leo's match as Naomi, the first woman he leaves his wife for, but definitely not the last woman he conquers. As his business partner, Jonah Hill's comedic timing is impeccable, even in dramatic moments. We want to see more scenes with him, though it gets difficult to tolerate their behavior when the drugs begin to consume their sanity (note a crazy 5 minute scene featuring Leo crawling towards his car after popping one too many "ludes"). Playing the good guy as always, Kyle Chandler is FBI agent Patrick Denham, and the only one that really challenges Jordan, ultimately bringing about his demise. 

The film is indeed very long, but it is so fascinating and it’s a tour de force by DiCaprio. Leo will be robbed if he doesn't win the Oscar for it, but he won't. Each time the Academy snubs him, he comes back better than before. I type this with a sense of urgency - see this film. You'll want to see it again.

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