A Martin Scorsese movie is unmistakeable. He has a way of telling a story that makes it all his own. The Wolf of Wall Street is another film that fits perfectly into his already superb crime narratives (The others: Goodfellas, Casino, The Gangs of New York, and The Departed). All of them have their own “true” storyline, but add in a little Scorsese magic and you have yourself a movie and a pretty great one at that.
Let’s start with the centerpiece of this film. Leonardo Dicaprio playing Jordan Belfort, a sleazy, douchebag of a Wall Street criminal . . . I mean stock broker. If it wasn’t such a great year for actors and acting, I would say he is a lock for a Best Actor nomination, but whether or not he is on the ballot is irrelevant. THIS is Leonardo Dicaprio. THIS is his best role. He absorbs it like no role he has had before. Adding in his own blend of flash and lunacy to an already off-the-wall character. But you believe him. You believe what he’s doing, even if what he’s doing is getting abused by a dominatrix, who is pouring candle wax on his back. It’s real to him, so it’s real to you. And his speeches to his firm, Stratton Oakmont, oh my, they are intense. It is like a personal highlight reel for Dicaprio. Each and every one is stuffed with sheer will and determination to rile up the staff and filled with enough emotion and drug-fueled energy to power a small village in Africa.
And the drugs, oh boy, the drugs. How more people did not overdose seems a little fishy, but hey, I guess they knew how to handle them right? But the drugs – and the lifestyle – is a source of contention for many, but if you are incapable of differentiating between a movie and real life, than I feel sorry for you. Yes, this is based on a true story, but we are watching a film, meant to entertain, and it entertains to the max. And no, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio are not glorifying or condoning that type of living or lifestyle, they are just telling a story. They do show the psyche of Belfort being ruined by drugs and he does say he is an addict and cleans himself up. So, see, drug abuse can be overcome! And you don’t watch The Wolf of Wall Street and say to yourself that you want to be Jordan Belfort. He is clearly an asshole. He punches his wife in the stomach and rats out all of his friends. So yeah, clearly a role model. I could rant some more, but I’ll leave it at that.
Back to the movie and the man behind the camera. Martin Scorsese. What a marvel he is. When I hear he is working on another movie, I pee myself a bit. His movies are near and dear to my heart. He is the godfather of style. Like no one before him, he stylizes some of his movies with creative directing techniques, spot-on soundtracks, and a perfect amount of voice-over narration. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort provides the only narration. He even breaks the fourth wall and talks into the camera at times, which adds to the fun and crazy. But perhaps the best example is when Belfort is arrested by the FBI at the end of a commercial he was shooting. Just perfect filmmaking.
But where would this movie be without Jonah Hill, who crushes it as Donnie Azoff, DiCaprio’s partner-in-crime. It is no secret that Hill loves Scorsese (I once heard him say in an interview that he tries to watch Goodfellas once a month). So I can’t imagine what it felt like for him to actually star in a Martin Scorsese film. And with Leonardo Dicaprio no less! This is the guy from Superbad. He’s come a long way. Hill seems as though he is in his comfort zone playing Azoff, as his combination of actual acting talent and comedic timing are in perfect harmony. I am shocked that I am even saying this, but I actually EXPECT Jonah Hill to be nominated for an Oscar. He’s that good.
I could go on and on with this movie. It may be three hours long, but it flies by, which is a testament in itself to the work that is being done by everyone involved. Every time I watch a Scorsese movie, I feel like a little kid (I remember seeing The Departed in the theaters and not believing what I was seeing. Masterful). Scorsese’s love for film always oozes through the screen and The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t any different. It isn’t my favorite Scorsese movie, it might not even be a top 5 for me (it’s a tough top-5 to crack!), but it’s a movie that I will enjoy re-watching for years to come, because I could watch Dicaprio on Quaaludes, seeing Popeye on the tv eating spinach, snorting some coke, and saving Hill’s life, who was choking on some cold-cuts, on repeat until the end of time.