How does this Scorsese guy do it? 71 years old and he’s still at the top of his game with the energy of a 22 year old.
The Wolf of Wall Street will do two things to you:
1) It makes you laugh till your sides hurt, and 2) It makes you take a shower asap. Because it’s a rare movie that makes you laugh and makes you feel guilty for laughing.
Debauchery has never been captured so sharply on screen, and The Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour long drunk story, cautionary tale and horror movie rolled into one. It’s spectacular. It’s repulsive. It’s the Goodfellas of modern day gangsters (investment bankers) and it’s Scorsese’s best since The Departed.
The protagonist Jordan Belfort is a thoroughly unlikely character, and in some instances hilariously so. Some of the things that happen in the movie are so over the top you won’t believe they’re real. The funny thing is they are real, and the amount of excess and overindulgence that Wall Street honchos engage in is ridiculous. Show those guys this film and they’ll clap and cheer at Belfort’s wrongdoings.
Leo, in the performance of his career plays Belfort like any hotshot top level WS banker. I knew Leo is a great dramatic actor but I never expected his comic timing to be this insane. Take the performances of all the cast members of 2000’s terrific Boiler Room, multiply them by a thousand and that’s still less awesome than Leo’s portrayal of Belfort. There is a ten minute long scene where his character is completely bonkers on drugs, he’s unable to walk, and he struggles to crawl to his car, somehow drives back home still out of his wits, watches Popeye eating spinach on TV and becoming strong, and snorts cocaine to come back to his senses. This will be used in film school textbooks in the chapter titled ‘how to render a badass fucking performance’. This team of Scorsese and Leo is certainly one of the greatest things to happen in cinema history and we’re lucky to live in the era where this is possible.
The supporting cast is equally terrific, Jonah Hill seems to be getting better as he ages and there’s Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin and a half a dozen other extended cameos all bringing their own devilish scumbaggy charm to the movie.
There is a bit of outrage regarding the movie being sexist and glorifying drug use. The joke’s on you, because the movie isn’t misogynist, but you are if you enjoy the stuff happening on screen. Portrayal of misogyny and drugs is never defence of misogyny and drugs, and if you’ve seen any Martin Scorsese film to date, you should know that by now. Not once does the film condone Belfort’s behaviour, and Scorsese makes it a point to not victimize Belfort for falling in the drug trap – he is shown as an innately narcissistic individual who wanted to do the disgusting things that he did.
Belfort wanted more and more money, sex and drugs, and the film ultimately becomes him, offering more and more outlandish scenarios as it goes on. Every scene is long, indulgent and excessive but so energetic, euphoric and shocking you can’t take your eyes off it. It’s definitely not something you should see with your parents. But it’s definitely something you need to see to know that entitled assholes like Belfort get away with minor jail time while others are branded criminals and rot in prison for far lesser offenses.
(First published in MiD Day)