Martin Scorsese's outrageous new film The Wolf Wall Street is the director's return to formula known from films such as Goodfellas and Casino. A story of crime, money and ultimate consequences. Or in this case - perhaps a lack of them?
All of that supposedly really happened - the titular wolf is Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, in most challenging role to date) - a stock broker with great skills and ambitions. Jordan uses his skills to build his company - he sells shitty stocks to people, which thanks to provisions makes him filthy rich. Jordan loves his life, surrounded by beautiful women, debauchery and luxury. But since most of what he does is illegal, very soon FBI starts chasing after him.
In the film's opening that takes you right to the middle of debauchery, Jordan gives us a tour of his life - big house, tons of drugs, his beautiful wife giving him a blow job in his Ferrari. And then we go back. We go back to the time Jordan was just at the beginning. A young kid on Wall Street, with an ordinary wife, ordinary life and with eagerness to get rich and live the dream. What dream? Everyone's dream.
I loved that whole opening. It's incredibly crucial too - during his first day Jordan meets Mark Hanna (brilliant Matthew McConaughey, who is simply exploding with primal energy). Hanna's whole philosophy is something that will shape Jordan. Earn money for yourself, not your clients. Do drugs. Jack off. Greed, drugs and sex. This is the new road for Jordan.
Pretty soon the firm in which Jordan works closes. He is forced to look for another job. Because of how good he is at what he does, he starts new company with his odd new friend Donnie Azoff (splendidly cast and brilliant Jonah Hill). The company makes tons of money, Jordan brings in hookers and booze to his firm and his charisma keeps bringing in new people to work there as well as new clients. The word about the Wolf of Wall Street spreads like a wildfire.
Leonardo DiCaprio was reportedly obsessed with playing Jordan Belfort since getting a hold
of the book (on which the movie is based on) back in 2007, DiCaprio has been focused on turning the
depraved tale of Belfort into a film. He wasn't just interested
in this story's connection to the most recent collapse on Wall Street,
he was also attracted to Jordan's honest and uncompromising portrayal of
what he actually experienced. Years later, DiCaprio's dream came true.
The Wolf of Wall Street is first and foremost a hugely entertaining movie. Not only is it expertly timed and well made, it's also hilarious. From genuinely brilliant and funny dialogues to amazing situational humour, this film is one of the funniest films Scorsese has ever made. There are scenes here that immediately shoot this movie up to the cult classic status. I dare you to watch Jordan's crawl to his car and not laugh. I double dare you.
Another thing is that because nobody involved holds any punches the film's wild and immoral atmosphere sucks you right in. For 3 hours, you are in the zone. Hookers, drugs, money, greed - you are right there with Jordan and his merry group of party boys witnessing the crazy shit that they do. And it's an absolute blast.
In spite of the film's long run time it's never boring - there are few glitches like Jordan's speeches to his employees that went for a tad too long, but in the grand scheme of things it's a very minor flaw. The film uses so many interesting techniques - because of cleverly put flashbacks it gets even more laughter from the audience and because of planned continuity errors and little tricks (like when Jordan is on top of the stairs and he sees more steps than there actually are) it does hell of a job portraying Jordan's clouded state of mind.
This is a film that should be getting attention because of how good it is, but as usual there are those who are professionally outraged. There are people out there, who I swear, behave as if this movie invented hookers and drugs. You do realize those are out there, right? It's a true story so why blame Scorsese for featuring naked chicks and tons of blow? I'll never understand prudes. What a sad life they must have when a pair of bare breasts leaves them catatonic with shock.
Another thing I keep hearing is that the film glamorizes drug use and debauchery. Guess what? It doesn't need to glamorize it. Everyone knows that the kind of life style Jordan has an appeal on its own. You don't need a freaking movie to think that. You tell me you wouldn't want to have all that money, cars and houses? Right. Simply telling a story of rich criminal is not necessarily an approval of it.
I'm kinda glad so many people had issues with understanding the ending because if they got it, that would give them more ammo to fire at this movie. In the film's ballsy and poignant ending, Jordan is a speaker during a seminar. He gives the people there only one thing to do - sell him a pen. One by one they try but fail - they lack the skill, confidence, charisma, charm. They lack the things Jordan was blessed with.
This is why it doesn't really matter how much time Jordan spent in prison, or how much money was confiscated from him. Sure, his jail sentence was outrageous - what was it? 2 years? - but no matter how long he is gonna be there - 5, 10, 15 years, he's gonna get out and continue to be who he has become. He is a greedy, money hungry man and unlike most of the people in the world he is blessed with traits and skills that enable him to make that money.
The people in the final shot, the shot that lingers, are average. They look tired, sad, desperate for change. They dream of a better life - life of beauty and luxury. But they will never have it because they lack the natural skills Jordan has. Scorsese doesn't tell people to go and con. I mean come on, likely even if you want to, you lack what it takes to actually succeed. He just let's you observe. And it's a sad reality we all live in. This film isn't amoral. The world is. I don't believe human nature has anything coded into it. But you live long enough, some things seep through your soul. Just look at this poor agent after he caught Jordan - he is still living his shitty life, even though he is the good guy and Jordan will most likely continue to make more and more money.
I myself was shocked only handful of times. Nudity and swearing don't have any impression on me neither does heavy partying or drug use. But there were some moments that made me go 'oh, they went there'. It was a moment when Jordan elbowed his wife in the stomach during the argument scene and the whole 'how to not get sued by little people' conversation. I didn't think it was over the line but it definitely made me a bit uncomfortable.
But getting back to the story and not the controversy, you gotta appreciate how well done this movie is. There are several sequences that are just masterful - the scene on the yacht with Jordan and FBI guys is just wonderful. The Lemmon 714 scene is already legendary. And then there are all those little gems - like Jordan being annoyed with his banker, played by incredibly charming Jean Dujardin. The running gag with Dujardin continuously using French language was improvised and partly true because of him having difficulty with English. The hysterical phone conversation with him yelling at DiCaprio to come to Switzerland at once was almost completely improvised by Dujardin and DiCaprio.
The cast is all for the craziness - I don't think I've ever seen more demanding performance from DiCaprio. The things he does here - from having a candle up his ass to moaning like an animal while high and desperately trying to communicate his thoughts - are mind blowing. He is funny, genuine and devoted. I liked his performance especially because of the inclusion of that lunch scene with McConaughey in which Jordan is such an innocent kid - look at him being all humble and grateful. And then he becomes such a beast. The contrast is startling.
Jonah Hill simply fucking deserves respect. He is a guy who can make people laugh but he is also the guy who can sell any character, even one as crazy as Donnie. He never let's DiCaprio overshadow him and he is a delight to watch. Apparently he only got 60,000$ for the role - that's how much he wanted to work with Scorsese. Newcomer Margot Robbie is amazing as Naomi, Jordan's second, sexy wife - her character was extremely interesting. She knew her worth, she new the way to get in and the way to get out. When Jordan tries to get a hold of her by saying 'they know you have nothing to do with this' she responds calmly and unimpressed 'I know'. When Naomi decided the fun was over, she just bailed. And can you blame her?
Because here is another remarkable thing about the movie. Jordan is a shit. He knows he is shity, he knows he is a degenerate, he knows he is an addict and he knows that what he is doing is something people would call criminal. But I wasn't thinking 'oh, I hate this guy' even for a second. DiCaprio and Scorsese make Jordan so fun to watch you have no time to think that. Even when he rats out the people of his own firm to save his sorry ass you are still so enthralled in the film you have no energy left to actively root against him.
Another reason I have respect for Scorsese for what he did in this film is because of that whole wire scene. I mean Scorsese doesn't waste time on making sure everyone knows what happened - he leaves it for the audience to figure out, just like with the ending. Jordan shows Donnie a yellow note saying that he is wearing a wire. And this is one of the many reasons Jonah Hill is my win for supporting actor - look at the look on his face. He isn't scared. He isn't freaked out. He is hurt. He is hurt because Jordan is ratting out the people he made them believe were like his family.
I'm sure there are people there saying - but hey, he helped them. He helped that lady he mentions during his speech. But what good did it do if in the end 'he gave them everyone'? He took from the rich, sure, but he didn't do it for some great purpose. As he himself said it, he took their money because he knew how to spend it better. And that's OK. There doesn't need to be any message here, but for me the ending I mentioned above was very telling.
Not only is that one of the better Scorsese movies I've seen (I think it's my second favorite of his, right after Casino) but the cast is absolutely amazing - apart from DiCaprio, McConaughey (that primal chant is apparently something he does before scenes to warm up and DiCaprio, upon noticing it, convinced him to use it in the scene), Dujardin, Robbie and Hill there is hilarious Rob Reiner as Jordan's father, Joanna Lumley as Naomi's aunt - never had I seen this much sex expressed by person's eyes - no wonder DiCaprio got so nervous kissing her, they needed to do the scene 27 times - and Kyle Chandler, admittedly a weak link, still pretty good as FBI agent that's after Jordan.
The script is so wonderful even tiny performances - like Aya Cash's hilarious assistant ("Yeah, go fuck your cousin") or Shea Whigham's captain Ted - are extremely memorable. Hell, even real-life Jordan Belfort appears - in a brief role in the film's final scene, introducing his cinema stand-in Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an amazing ride - great acting, awesome script, masterful execution and bitchin' soundtrack. You have something like American Hustle - quite simply an imitation - and you have the real deal in Oscar race this year - The Wolf of Wall Street. Hell, it's like vitamin B and the white lady. Why go for fake when movies like this one are still getting made? And thank God, I mean Scorsese, they are.