THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
Opened December 25
Based on Jordan Belfort’s 2007 memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street relates the rise and fall of a fast-talking, high-living stockbroker, played to the hilt by an impressive Leonardo DiCaprio. But Martin Scorsese’s picture, his fifth starring DiCaprio, has trouble walking that fine line between glorifying Belfort’s money, drugs, and women lifestyle and portraying him as a greedy con man who ransacked innocent people’s savings and ruined their lives. In 1987, Belfort gets a job working for rather strange LF Rothschild trader Mark Hanna (Matthew McConnaughey) and immediately gets a taste for the business; however, Black Monday strikes, and he soon finds himself selling penny stocks with a rag-tag group of losers out of a Long Island storefront run by a man named Dwayne (Spike Jonze). But he’s able to excel at the job, taking home big bucks and eventually opening his own firm, Stratton Oakmont, with right-hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). Nearly instant success leads to endless partying, strippers, prostitutes, dwarf tossing, cocaine, ludes, and absurdly lavish expenses that enrage Belfort’s father, Max (a hysterical Rob Reiner), when he goes over the books. But nothing can stop Jordan and Donnie as they rake in the dough and do whatever they want, seemingly without consequence, even when the Feds, led by FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), start sniffing around. Even when it does come crashing down, it still doesn’t seem to have too much of an effect on Belfort and his buddies, who keep feeling invincible.
Written by Terence Winter, who previously celebrated criminals in The Sopranos and currently on Boardwalk Empire — two cable series that deal with the good/evil delineation much better — The Wolf of Wall Street is far too long at three hours, and it features a surprising number of bad continuity and synching edits by longtime Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker. And the soundtrack lacks the usual Scorsese power, found in such films as Goodfellas, which bears a strong thematic resemblance to Wolf. The large cast also includes Jean Dujardin as Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Saurel, Cristin Milioti as Belfort’s first wife, Margot Robbie as Belfort’s second wife, Joanna Lumley as her aunt, Jon Favreau as his lawyer, Jake Hoffman as Steve Madden, Sharon Jones as a singer, Fran Lebowitz as a judge, and private investigator Bo Dietl as private investigator Bo Dietl. The real Belfort, who recently took to Facebook to explain that he is using one hundred percent of his profits from the book and film to pay back the victims of his shady dealings, makes a cameo appearance at the end of the film as an emcee. Despite its drawbacks — even PETA has attacked the film for its treatment of animals — The Wolf of Wall Street nails the feeding frenzy that was the financial fury of the late 1980s, which set the table for future economic disasters.
Nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Best Adapted Screenplay (Terence Winter)