Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Oscar Nominee Review: "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a Howler

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Running time:  180 minutes (3 hours)
MPAA – R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
WRITER: Terence Winter (based on the book by Jordan Belfort)
PRODUCERS: Riza Aziz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and Martin Scorsese
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodrigo Prieto (D.o.P)
EDITOR: Thelma Schoonmaker
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Shea Whigham, P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Ethan Suplee, Bo Dietl, and Johnnie Mae

The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 drama, bio-film, and black comedy from director Martin Scorsese and writer Terence Winter.  The film stars actor Leonardo DiCaprio and is the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio.

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort (the 2007 book, The Wolf of Wall Street).  The Wolf of Wall Street the film dramatizes the true story of Belfort:  how he rose to become a wealthy stockbroker, how he lived the high-life, and how he fell into the clutches of the FBI.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) breaks the fourth wall of the movie screen and narrates The Wolf of Wall Street.  He gives a tour of his incredible financial wealth, which includes a lavish house on Long Island’s Gold Coast and his trophy wife, Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie).  He then goes back to the beginning of his career in a low-level job at an established Wall Street firm.  Although he soon moves into a job as a real stock broker, the firm soon goes bankrupt.

Belfort then tells us of his less glamorous job selling penny stocks.  However, his aggressive pitching style makes him a huge success in penny stocks.  Eventually, Belfort opens his own brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, Inc., and hires his low-rent pals to be his first employees.  His controversial style earns him the moniker, the “Wolf of Wall Street.”  Belfort makes more money than he can spend, and he leads a decadent lifestyle of sex-filled, drug-fueled parties.  However, all that money and his reputation earn Belfort the attention of the FBI and an ambitious agent, Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who begins investigating Belfort and Stratton Oakmont.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a box office success and earned many accolades, including five Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe award win for Leonardo DiCaprio.  Still, the film is controversial, mostly for its moral ambiguity, sexual content, the presence of drugs, and/or its vulgarity, among many complaints.

I don’t see the film as morally ambiguous.  The filmmakers are clear in the storytelling and the depiction of the characters and their actions that Jordan Belfort and his cohorts are crooks and scam artists, and they are certainly depraved and lecherous.  Belfort may be a sociopath, and he is at least self-centered and narcissistic.  Wall Street did not make him the way he is; it is simply the perfect place for Belfort to be what he is.

Director Martin Scorsese, writer Terence Winter, and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio offer a black comedy that is timeless in its focus.  They hold the mirror up to us and make it clear that people never change and they never learn.  People chase money and some money chasers prey on other money chasers.  They are the predators that clean up and rake in the dough every time.  As this kind of predator – this wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio gives a performance that deserves to be described as a tour de force.

Some predators live it up on their ill-gotten gains.  The Wolf of Wall Street shows us the ribaldry and depravity of those who live it up to the extreme.  And this film is a blast because of that.  If you stop yourself from thinking about the real-life Jordan Belfort’s victims, you might find this film dynamic and irreverent.  Scorsese isn’t glorifying Belfort’s excessive lifestyle.  Instead, the director offers a great character study of a larger-than-life American archetype; this is a randy version of that archetype.  This version simply spends more time with his pants down and blow up his nose than most.

You can hate both the player and the game, but it is hard to hate The Wolf of Wall Street, at least it is for me.  This fifth Marty and Leo film makes me eager for the sixth.

9 of 10

Friday, April 04, 2014

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  5 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Joey McFarland, and Martin Scorsese), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Leonardo DiCaprio), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jonah Hill), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Martin Scorsese), “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Terence Winter)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Leonardo DiCaprio); 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical)”

2014 BAFTA Awards:  4 nominations: “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Terence Winter), “Best Leading Actor” (Leonardo DiCaprio), “Best Editing” (Thelma Schoonmaker), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Martin Scorsese)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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