Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street: Movie Review


Drugs, sex and alcohol disguises the brilliant character work of the wolf.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” is Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). He’s given that name during a rather clever point in the film when a reporter interviews him about his new-found business success. In the same article he’s described as a twisted version of Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of shady salesmen. At the time, he’s not too thrilled with the description, but that changes. 2013

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by: Terence Winter
Based on the book by Jordan Belfort

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio

The film is presumably a character study, but one that’s disguised by the very type of character that Jordan is. He gets his start on Wall Street. He’s young, smart, ambitious, determined, and observant, and is bound to be successful. In Matthew McConaughey’s only appearance, the older, and already successful, Mark Hanna, is going to teach his young protégé the ropes. Which really involves which drugs to take at which point during the day. To briefly sum up, that would be everything you can get your hands on (primarily cocaine) and as often as possible.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
But there is no “briefly summing up” in this film. The run time of 3 hours, is 3 hours worth of cocaine, hookers, Quaalude highs, more cocaine, more hookers, and doing cocaine off of naked hookers. It’s not hard to understand why this movie is so beloved. Nobody knows how to party like it’s 1993 like Martin Scorsese does. It’s the perfect blend of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. It never really lets up the roller coaster life of Belfort and associates, or the introduction of many capable actors.

The major plot turn in the movie is when Belfort and his company, Stratton Oakmont, are investigated by the FBI for fraudulent activities. The FBI agent is Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) who does a magnificent job holding his own against DiCaprio’s Belfort. Denham needs evidence of what Belfort is up to, Belfort doesn’t know what Denham has on him, and both men are trying to get the upper-hand without the one realizing it.

As drugs have a habit of doing, Belfort has more than his share of high highs and low lows, and that’s finally where the substance of the movie sneaks in. It can be hard to notice that there is much value behind the drugs and hookers, but the movie is entirely about the character of Jordan Belfort. He’s in every scene. He struggles with the initial collapse of Wall Street, how he’s going to recover personally (not just financially), realizing what his true talents are, and choosing rich over poor.

Through the various stages in Belfort’s life, he has to make a choice. Usually choosing prettier and richer. The moral struggles are there, and like with most addicts, drugs only offer a superficial happiness, hiding how you really feel. Unlike most addicts, Jordan Belfort knows he’s an addict.

It’s the small things in the evolution of Jordan Belfort that make it a good movie. It’s the drugs, alcohol and money that make it seem like a good movie. Jordan Belfort (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) appears like a wolf, but he wants to be a lion.
Best of 2013

Similar Titles:

Flight (2012) - Character study boldly blurring the lines of life, happiness and right and wrong.