johnlink ranks THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

I started my 2015 by watching a movie from 2013 which was featured in many award shows from 2014. Martin Scorsese’s comedic biography of Jordan Belfort, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, was another Scorsese film to garner a bunch of Academy Award nominations (five) and to ultimately win none of them.


I watched THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) on 1.2.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

There aren’t too many filmmakers left who can get away with making a three hour dramatic comedy with few redeeming characters and during which nothing (well almost nothing) blows up. Martin Scorsese has made his career on building character, though the humor of his films is usually an afterthought emerging from the scenarios as written and performed. In WOLF OF WALL STREET, however, Scorsese is making a comedy first. Sure this is also a poignant film about the dark side of the American Dream, but several sequences are played for comedy first.

And that is a good thing. Leonardo DiCpario has never been known for comedy. He has moments in his career, but he has never had to carry a film with humor as an equal to drama. Here, as Jordan Belfort, he is the engine for a movie in which the peak moment of the film involves the main character heavily overdosing on drugs and literally crawling to his car to keep his friend, Donnie (Jonah Hill) from having a drug induced conversation recorded by a wire tap. This scene is Leonardo DiCaprio doing slapstick comedy. Sure it is drug-fueled slapstick, but it is slapstick nonetheless.

The film tells of Jordan’s rise from poor college grad to 20-something multi-millionaire. Told from the late 80s through the early 90s, he finds an easy way to use penny stocks to drive massive profits. He builds a company which happily sells junk to rich fools, and he takes pride in his invincibility. The movie is filled with drugs, naked prostitutes, cursing (it holds the record for most F-bombs in a film), and anger. While Jordan leads his friends to riches he is pursued by an FBI agent (Kyle Chandler) who would love to take him down.

This movie is Scorsese attacking wall street. He does take time to show why the environment is so appealing (particularly to young men) and he does a wonderful job of demonstrating why people would want to be involved in that life. But he also shows just how out-of-control the industry is. And even if Jordan Belfort was the only one finishing the week by having his stockbrokers throwing midgets at a target, he’s certainly not the only one taking advantage of a flawed system. In one of the most telling moments of the film, the entire company begins chanting anti-U.S.A. rhetoric while standing in a building bought on the backs of Americans exploiting other Americans in an undeniably American system. These people have forgotten why they have the opportunity they have. They have all insulated themselves to the point of believing that they don’t need to worry about petty things like laws or consequences. An awakening moment for Jordan seems to happen when some people coming to his rescue are killed. Yet, in the immediate aftermath, his attitude doesn’t seem to have changed all that much.

The surprise of this movie is Margot Robbie as Jordan’s second wife, Naomi. She talks through a thick New York accent, but she is smarter than she first seems to be. She uses her body as currency, sure, but she gets everything she wants out of the life. She truly loves Jordan, for awhile anyway, before things begin to fall apart in an inevitable third act. Not quite as good is Rob Reiner as Jordan’s dad, but it is just good to see Reiner on screen again.

DiCpario, too, is excellent. This is one of his most unique roles, and certainly his funniest. Hill, also, earns his keep here. He is funny and out-of-control in a way that is never dangerous, but always hilarious. Al of this is thanks to a solid script by Boardwalk Empire co-creator Terence Winter. The script is not kind to Jordan, even if it is based on the man’s own book, and nobody comes across as particularly relatable. They are real people, sadly, just not someone to relate to.

The film work is interesting. Sometimes the editing cheats a bit, or seems to use an awkward cut. This is intentional, showing the dropped bits of Jordan’s life as a result of drugs. The pacing can be frantic at times, but is at it’s most pure Hollywood in the moments when Jordan is addressing his crew. In those moments, he is the man he wants to be.

This may not be Scorsese’s best work ever. But even his mid-tier stuff is better than most others’ best effort. I enjoyed WOLF OF WALL STREET, I respect it. I just wish it didn’t have to exist.




FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10



~ by johnlink00 on January 3, 2015.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)”

  1. I really need to see this one. Still one of the few by Martin that I haven’t seen. He has always been one of my favorite directors. He seems to make any genre work in his favor. Nice review.

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