With The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese has crafted a three-hour long epic comedy of bad taste about a world-class, rotten to the core douchebag. Jordan Belfort was a money laundering asshole to the extreme who played fast and loose with people’s money on Wall Street, scammed the poor and the rich alike for his own gain and the gain of his amoral idiot friends, consumed drugs and women and every material thing, got caught, went to jail, wrote a book about it, and now his glorious suck-fest of an idolatrous life is a top drawer film from cinema’s greatest living master.
The Wolf of Wall Street is about excess, excess in crime, excess in life, excess in filmmaking, excess in acting. Teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the umpteenth time, Scorsese lets the Oscar deprived thespian of this generation loose in ways I never imagined and has him doing things I never cared to see. The pair take their “relationship” so far over the course of the film’s monstrous runtime that I don’t know if they could ever top what they do here without it becoming illegal.
The film, scripted by Terrence Winter from Belfort’s memoir, contains some howlingly funny scenes and bouts of dialogue, including one where Belfort and his pals discuss seriously the potential legal ramifications of midget tossing at work (which ends in a great little homage to Tod Browning’s Freaks – oddly fitting) and another involving a ridiculously dramatic rescue at sea from a sinking yacht done to the tune of Umberto Tozzi’s “Gloria” complete with Italian jokes. Rob Reiner also gets some great riotous moments as Belfort’s hot-tempered accountant father.
Scorsese, that old sentimentalist, of course, in recrementitous fashion pays homage to himself. Sparring scenes between Belfort and his wife (the feloniously hot Margot Robbie) play like recreations of the over-the-top battles between Robert DeNiro and Sharon Stone in Casino as channeled through MTV’s “The Hills.” Meanwhile, Belfort’s relationship with his fat, dopey, drug-addled partner (played by Jonah Hill complete with fake teeth) taps into the same burdensome brother archetypes typically looped through DeNiro and Joe Pesci.
Matthew McConaughey (who has recently been giving DiCaprio a run for his money as best mainstream actor working today) has a scene-stealing and tone-setting cameo in the beginning of the film as the guy who first shows Belfort the ropes. Kyle Chandler is on board as the FBI agent who nails Belfort and there’s a bunch of other people playing a bunch of other jackasses.
There appears to be no moral at the film’s core nor any redeeming thing to glean from Belfort’s character. Even his story of having faith in a single mom and giving her a chance when no one else would, eventually teaching her how to become rich herself by hiring her into his firm, rings hollow and self-serving. But it’s all about salesmanship – and a master filmmaker can sell anything to the audience. Deep down lost in all this excess there’s something Scorsese is trying to tell us with his depiction of these despicable pigs.
Oh, yeah….that’s it! You can put lipstick on a pig. And it can look fantastic!
Written by David H. Schleicher
I haven’t seen the film but I agree that the Master has stooped low to give us semi-biographical accounts of fraudsters and scamsters with no depth and only amorality painted all over it. I suppose with the changing times Martin too wants to take a dig at society full-on sadistic Tarantino style.
Hmmm…Prakash…I think Marty was always interested in this milieu of excess…this would form a decent trilogy with Goodfellas (a far superior and more interesting film, hell one of my favorite films of all time) and Casino (slightly better than this film here, but equally excessive and repetitive). It’s just the “gangsters” here are stockbrokers – but same ideas about crime and money and excess and self-destruction. The off putting thing about this one is that the victims of Jordan Belfort are legion and the guy is still out there touring as a motivational salesman. His crimes have far more reach and implications than those of small time hoods…it’s risk-taking Wall Street douchebags like him who brought down the economy in 2008.
David, this is entertainment piece and as such its a real exhilarating, roller-coaster ride. No top ten of the year for me, but certainly a successful effort here by Scorsese and Di Caprio.