Review by Alec R. Lee
This was the first review when I have had multiple people ask when am I going to release it. I take that as a compliment.
Martin Scorsese should pretty much be the only selling point that anyone needs to see this film. Especially with it being another Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration. Seriously, the man has done phenomenal work over his long career: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Aviator, The Departed, the list goes on. It’s even more impressive considering that this movie almost did not get released this year, due to a ratings controversy with the MPAA which resulted in that over an hour had to be cut from the film to satisfy the running time and to avoid an NC-17 rating. However, The Wolf of Wall Street looks like it might be considered to be one of the director’s new masterpieces. It is a surreal experience that is a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and a lot of screaming. And it is one roller coaster of a ride.
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker in New York City who starts in the major firms in the city, but circumstances lead him to create his own brokerage firm with a few friends. That firm quickly grows into a monster with its employees making millions through commissions. Belfort is an addict in every sense of the word. Cocaine, crack, quaaludes, sex, you name it, he’s ingested it and this supposedly helps him get through the stresses of day trading. Through illegal trading maneuvers Belfort is able to amass a fortune, which sets the stage on how he lives the rest of his life: in excess. The script is written by one-time Scorsese collaborator, Terence Winter. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, try thinking of The Sopranos, or Boardwalk Empire. Yeah, this is the guy who wrote the screenplay. Winter’s script is sharp, giving life to the absolute lunatic that is Jordan Belfort and all of his drug-ridden escapades as well, told in living color (courtesy of Scorsese’s perfect direction). Belfort’s unreliable narration and tone help distinguish the fact that this film isn’t all serious drama, but a black comedy. Think Coen Brothers before viewing.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives at the very, very least and Oscar performance here as Jordan Belfort (give the man a nom, Academy!) which is accentuated by his over the top behavior (usually screaming) and the fact that his character is high most of the movie. (“I will not die sober!”) But man, is he fun to watch. He’s the reason we’re all here, we root for this guy despite his shady behavior. He’s funny, he’s smart, and he represents lavishness to such an extreme that you become jealous of his lifestyle, despite the fact that this is all taking place on a screen. Matthew McConaughey has a brief turn as Belfort’s boss in the beginning and quickly makes it memorable to the audience in a restaurant scene. Jonah Hill shows off his dramatic chops once again and proves to us that the once strictly comedic actor can be dead serious with the right script. (even though his character is meant to be comic relief but what the hell…) Kyle Chandler gives his straight man routine as the FBI agent assigned to Belfort’s case, and Rob Reiner gives a rare acting turn to this movie which results in some hilarious moments of dialogue. Steeled eyed fans will be able to spot Boardwalk Empire actor Shea Wingham in a cameo, as well as director Spike Jonze, and for the Korra crowd, P.J. Byrne. Something missing from the cast? I’ll explain in another paragraph.
The women of The Wolf of Wall Street, frankly, are not treated well in Winter’s script. They’re sexual objects to the men. There isn’t a young woman on screen that will not have their clothes off at some point in this film. Margot Robbie plays Belfort’s girlfriend and eventually wife, and is used as a source of tension for Belfort for most of the movie (which relate to drugs, domestic abuse, child custody, the works). And Belfort’s wife has to put up with a lot of crap because we see her get screwed (literally) at least three times in this movie. Hell, I can’t even begin to count how many women we saw having sex on the screen. That’s because this movie throws a few orgies our way (and a gay one). Nothing gets too graphic (in terms of male anatomy being glimpsed, but for the females……ehhh…..) but the fact that there are orgies taking place in an office, a boat, even in a goddamn plane, may prove to be a bit much for audience members. Which relates back to my initial statement: the women in this film aren’t looked highly upon in the grand scheme of the movie. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone who dislikes sexual objectification and blatant stereotyping of women…..or just people squeamish about nudity in general.
If that wasn’t enough, this movie seems to have been trying to break the record for most profanity in a motion picture to date. There is so much swearing that by the time the movie has ended, you’re numb to listening to all of the curse words, they just sound like regular words in the end. Some person (whom I’m presuming has no life) counted over 500 uses of the word “fuck” and that is not even including all of the other curse words out there, but that word was the definite favorite of the movie. Young kids, who are incredibly impressionable, WILL repeat any bad words uttered in this film, not even remotely joking. And I haven’t even mentioned the drugs in this film…..the drugs….. Belfort, in the beginning of the movie, confidentially confides in the audience about his addictions to several types of drugs and his methods of consumption. So you see, the movie is rather blase about drugs in general (the message is anti-drugs in nature, but it will be hard to discern based on the behaviors of the characters). This film skips over gateway drugs and plows straight into cocaine, whereupon it is ingested in several different ways throughout the three hour slog, most notably, rectally. Crack is smoked, marijuana is at least mentioned, alcohol is consumed in large quantities. But the worst offender of the drugs in this film has to be pills, or more specifically, quaaludes. There is a scene in the film in which two main characters ingest 15 year old pills and think they don’t work due to their age, so they take more. This leads to a rather comical but ultimately horrifying (morally) scene in which all of these powerful pills kick in due to having a delayed reaction because of their age (the recommended dosage was one, these characters had at least seven). Not recommended for anyone in rehab.
With all this debauchery and sin, it is easy to tell people to avoid this type of movie in the fear that they would be offended. On the other hand, if you know people that don’t care about the moral slips that these characters allow, then this film is fantastic. It is a glimpse of how the 1% of the 1% live and how crazy these people can get sometimes (apparently this was based off of a true story). Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant as Jordan Belfort and deserves every ounce of the spotlight that his character’s massive ego doesn’t already fill. To be honest, all of the sex, drugs, and irreverence that occurs in the film works. The whole package gives us an unaltered look at what it means to be wealthy and how people literally go insane with being rich. For almost three hours, I was not bored a second and I will be adding it to my Scorsese Blu-ray collection as soon as possible.
Final Score: 90/100