The Wolf of Wall Street is the kind of movie you and your family go to on Christmas for a delightful family gathering. The movies subject matter is lighthearted and certain scenes will make Grandma’s heart melt!…..
Yeah I’m kidding. Do not bring your family to this. Trust me. The Wolf of Wall Street is a filthy, hedonistic, materialistic, unapologetic film that will be praised for ages. I loved it with a filthy passion. This is one of Scorsese’s best films ever. It’s a few nothces from being on Goodfellas level. This testosterone fueled masculine amusement park ride of a film chronicles Jordan Belfort’s real life rise to fame and fortune, and of course his downfall. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Jordan Belfort became The Wolf of Wall Street. One of my favorite Nietzsche quotes “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you” certainly applies here. But this abyss here is firmly filthy, excessive, energetic, and hilarious. Jordan Belfort creates an army of power hungry stock brokers that relish in drugs, prostitutes and throwing midgets at dart boards. Yes that happens. I suppose it’s a metaphor for the big guys simply toying with the small guys, which is exactly what these stock brokers do to become rich.
Scorsese’s Goodfellas is about blue collar crime, and this takes the exact same structural approach but applies it to white collar crime. From beginning to end, which is 3 hours, this film will keep you entertained with it’s ridiculous dark and satirical humor of greed, capitalism, sex, and drugs. Lots of drugs. One scene in a country club and eventually finishing in Jordan’s kitchen might be one of the funniest scenes ever. It’s physical comedy at the level of Buster Keaton. The humor here while filthy, works on multiple levels and is often satirical or dark in its approach. This is the best kind of comedy. The movie is loaded with disgustingly hilarious comedy gems.
It’s completely fitting that a movie about greed and power would be excessive in its approach. Anything less would be neutering the lifestyle, electric energy and pacing of the film. Dicaprio’s Jordan Belfort is a narcissistic, clueless, jerk who believes he’s the king of the world and he actually might be. He’s a monster corrupted by greed, but as the film points out, so are all of us. Dicaprio is magnetic in this role. It’s his greatest performance. The nuance he delivers is what keeps our eyes stuck on the screen. Think Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, which is a somewhat similar film that also cautions excessive masculinity and capitalism.
A host of supporting characters are memorable and just add more powerful ammunition to this machine gun of a film. Particularly Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff is an idiotic weasel of a character and it also Jonah Hill’s best performance, and funniest. The humor here is so outright in your face that it becomes subtle somehow. This is a hard feat to pull off and Scorsese’s direction here is so immensely powerful by utilizing his neo realist film language to the point of revelatory cinema. A little more work in the editing room could have trimmed some fat on the movie as a whole. There’s about 3 or 4 scenes that trip up this fast paced flick. Some will find it exhausting and not want too take on the subject matter but I fell in love with the movie. This is the best form and content in a Scorsese film since Goodfellas. Everything in the movie gels to create an uber-stylish exploration of white-collar crime and America’s relationship with capitalism.
The film delivers huge laughs, but in the end it doesn’t condone this behavior. The film is simply Jordan’s view of the world. There’s a shot that firmly signifies the viewers reaction to the film. It’s a mirror showing the viewer’s reaction this movie’s subject matter. It’s one of the most brilliant shots I’ve seen all year. With all of its excessive nudity, drugs, and dark satirical humor, The Wolf of Wall Street transcends simply being a dirty and satirical comedy by using its stylistic endeavors to create depth and shine a huge bright light on this outrageous lifestyle that America desires. Dare I say it’s a masterpiece. Scorsese has hit a home run.