Is Indeed a Reality of Myth
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS MAY OCCUR!!!!!!!!!!
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo diCaprio’s fifth collaboration is a long one, clocking in at a minute short of three hours. But to Scorsese’s credit, the film never feels like it’s running for that long, each minute of it filled with excess debauchery and more sex and drugs than anyone could possibly handle. The film is very, very rated-R and it’s surprising that even the edited cut avoided an NC-17 rating. Whether the film is a resounding inditement or celebration of Wall Street excess is a personal issue, but personally it felt much more like a scathing inditement of the lives a few live at the expense of everyone else. Wolf is a hilarious film despite the subject matter, reveling in the sheer despicableness of the lead character Jordan Belfort. There are moments when the audience will laugh out loud and then again and then again some more, but then they will stop. After the fourth laugh or so, a punchline Scorsese pulls is asking the audience why indeed, are they laughing. What’s funny about Belfort’s descent into maddening debauchery? After the initial hilarity of Belfort begins to fade away, the entire picture becomes much more disturbing as the audience is forced to question the very nature of the comedy. The Wolf of Wall Street is a comedy on the surface, but it is a dark comedy that presents the disturbing and disgusting nature of Wall Street largesse from drugs to prostitutes in an unfettering manner.
The performances in this film are fantastic, not a single actor or actress missing a beat. diCaprio leads the ensemble in an Oscar-worthy performance that showcases the actor at his absolute funniest (two beats of physical comedy come to mind, the second one hilariously awful). It’s kind of odd to think of diCaprio’s previous performance as the showy Jay Gatsby that was nevertheless “classy” in a sort of way when you see him blowing cocaine off of strippers. It’s unnerving in its sexually explicit nature, as it’s meant to be. There’s a portion of Belfort that perhaps understands his despicable nature but he rarely acknowledges it for more than a second. There might be a problem for some people who feel that Jordan does not get his comeuppance at the end, but he realizes that he still is filthy rich. So little consequences. Jonah Hill is hilarious, if an ass to beat. Margot Robbie is pitch-perfect as Belfort’s second wife Naomi and the Australian actress manages to hold her Queens accent perfectly and steals every single scene she’s in. The only gripe with Naomi is that she gets dropped for a good portion in the second half of the film and her presence is sorely missed. Jean Dujardin makes an appearance as the Swiss banking agent Jean-Jacques Saurel, sleazy and hilarious as he hurls insults towards Belfort and Americans in general. Matthew McConaughey has a brief but memorable turn here as Belfort’s initial “mentor” Mark Hanna, and the humming, thumping beating from the trailers is referenced throughout the film like a morbid twist of the bells that signal the stock trade at the New York Stock Exchange. Kyle Chandler’s Patrick Denham is the FBI agent tasked with bringing Belfort down and he is excellent, especially when Belfort reminds him of the subway he takes to commute and the overall banality of his existence. The scene with him on the subway has no words and no over-the-top moments, but it works wonders.
Scorsese’s direction is reliable and it never flinches away from some of the most uncomfortable moments, but it’s not the director’s best effort. The film looks great, although in all fairness the color palettes and the well-done cinematography might not necessarily be the first thoughts that come to mind during the viewing of the film. In terms of plot and pacing, the film moves along briskly and the screenplay by Terence Winter (eg., Boardwalk Empire) adapts the namesake memory well. If the film has a structural flaw, it has to do with it’s female characters. Wall Street is a predominately a male-driven culture and the film depicts it that way. However, the dropping of Robbie’e excellent Naomi for a chunk in the second half is detrimental and the limited scene time given to Belfort’s first wife Teresa Petrillo, played with aplomb by Cristin Milioti. The problem with Naomi and Petrillo’s arcs is that the audience is never privy to their reflection changing on Belfort – the transition from love to doubt to reflection to fury is missing some of the doubt and a lot of the reflection. Audiences will be polarized by this film and to that there can be no doubt, whether by the subject matter or by the severe nudity and drug use. Some will walk way excited, pumped by the ecstasy driving Scorsese’s camera and others will walk away, disgusted by the over-the-top lifestyle Belfort and his colleagues enjoyed. Personally, if I stated that nothing about the yacht or the money was appealing that would be a lie, but my reaction towards Belfort, his cronies, and essentially all of their actions was one of palpable disgust. Perhaps the skewed mixture was the point.
Title: The Wolf of Wall Street
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Martin Scorsese
Producer: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Koskoff
Screenplay: Terence Winter
Based On: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Music: Robbie Robertson
Starring: Leonardo diCaprio, Margo Robbie, Jonah Hill ,Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
Studios: Red Granite Pictures, Appian Way Productions, Sikelia Productions, Emjag Productions
Distributers:Paramount Pictures (United States), Universal Pictures (International)
Running Time: 179 minutes
Release Date: December 12th, 2013 (New Zealand); December 25th, 2013 (U.S.)
Image Courtesy: The Wolf of Wall Street