Movie Name: The Wolf of Wall Street
Studio: Red Granite Pictures
Release Date(s): December 17, 2013 (Premiere)/December 25, 2013 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man setting out to rule the stock market. When Black Monday occurs on October 19, 1987, he finds himself out of work and in a world where stockbrokers are a dime-a-dozen. When he learns about the value of penny stocks, Jordan finds a way to bring himself back from the brink. With a team lead by his understudy Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), Jordon is about to turn Wall Street upside down and have fun doing it with his new company Stratton Oakmont. Sex, drugs, and stocks might be Jordan’s life, but it also could come back to destroy him.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street adapts the true story of Jordan Belfort chronicled in his biographical novel from 2007. The movie was met with positive reviews but controversy due to the portrayal of excess and whopping 506 (or much more depending on some counts) uses of the F-word. Despite this, the movie is one of Scorsese’s biggest financial successes and received multiple awards and nominations. The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Scorsese is a tricky director who sometimes is the one of the best directors and other time misses the mark. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of his good films, but it isn’t one of his best films.
My biggest problem with The Wolf of Wall Street is the long runtime of three hours. With the extended length, what starts out as a fun movie begins to sink in the last hour. Movies where characters are out of control are always fun for the out of control portion, but I always get a bit bored with the “redemption” portion of the story where the hens come home to roost (as it is even stated in the film). This is seen in other movies like A Clockwork Orange, Boogie Nights, and Scorsese’s previous early ’90s excess film Goodfellas…plus, the movie takes a weird slapstick turn which is fun at first but goes on a bit too long.
DiCaprio continues to prove that he’s one of the best young actors. His baby-face allows him to play a large range of ages and be a bit more realistic, but he is starting to look his age…which is probably beneficial to him. He’s backed up by a nice supporting cast with Jonah Hill as his back-up man. I don’t like Jonah Hill that much, but I can’t help but like him in this movie with his goofy smile and weird, obscene behavior. I also like Margot Robbie who is more than just a pretty face and gives a breakout performance as DiCaprio’s model wife Naomi. I think Rob Reiner is a bit too funny as DiCaprio’s father and Spike Jones and Jon Favreau all cameo to make a “director” trilogy. I like Kyle Chandler as the investigator and especially like his scene with DiCaprio in which he gets some range that he normally doesn’t get to show. The film also features a small but effective role by Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna making 2013 a great year for him with Dallas Buyers Club and Mud.
The movie is a bit more visual than some of Scorsese’s recent movies and more like some of his earlier movies because it is a bit more experimental. There were some comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s films due to the faster editing, long dialogue sequences, and some hijinks in the office and between Hill and DiCaprio. I see how some could see that, but it does line up with other Scorsese films.
As to the sex, language, and excess of the film, I don’t have much of a problem with it. It is supposed to be the most extreme it can be. Is the punishment that DiCaprio faces equal to the life he got to lead? No. Are the people he ripped off represented? No. The film makes it sexy to a point, but it also becomes sad and pathetic. It allows the viewers to see what it could be like to be that rich and allows them to question if they would be wooed by the glamour of the excess…it has been done before, but this time it just added more language and more sex with politically incorrect moments.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a very long movie that has high, high points (pun intended) and some lower points, but overall is a fun ride. Despite the accolades and financial success, I don’t think it will go down as one of Scorsese’s best, but it is very memorable.