By Mark Saldana
Rating 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Martin Scorsese is mostly known for crime sagas and not necessarily comedies. He has dabbled in satire and dark comedy in The King of Comedy and After Hours, but his latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street combines an epic crime story with insane and uproarious dark comedy that ranges from the lowest common denominator to intelligent satire and everything in between. The 180 minute biopic of Jordan Belfort and his rise and fall on Wall Street is probably the wildest ride in cinemas in 2013 and gets my vote for the number one comedy of 2013. During my screening, I laughed constantly, sat mouth wide open in amazement and was left blown away and over-stimulated. Even at the age of 71 can Martin Scorsese deliver a motion picture that unflinchingly delivers astonishment, plenty of surprises, thrills, and pure, unadulterated entertainment, while telling another cautionary tale of greedy, excess, and the downfall that can result from these indulgences!
During the 1990s, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) begins his business career as a humble stockbroker on Wall Street. In a short amount of time after a major market crash leaves him broke and unemployed, he starts his own penny stock company. Stratton Oakmont eventually explodes on Wall Street, and makes Belfort and his brokers some of the wealthiest people in America. Their wild reputation and suspicious practices attract the attention of the federal government who begin an investigation on Belfort, his business partner Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and their infamous monster of a company.
Written by Terrence Winter based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiography, the story is presented and told in a very similar style to Scorsese’s Goodfellas with DiCaprio narrating this time. Scorsese’s presentation is appropriately less gritty and more glossy playing up the glam and glitz that Belfort and cohorts celebrate with the obscene amounts of money they pocketed. Make no mistake, though, the lifestyles of these rich and infamous do have their dark, disturbing, and incredibly absurd moments. Greed and the addiction to wealth, drugs and other vices definitely have the power to make people behave in the most low and loathsome ways.
I had heard some criticisms regarding the similarities this film has with Goodfellas in its themes and methods of storytelling, but why criticize the methods if they work so well?! Both Wolf of Wall Street and Goodfellas tell two different crime stories that have some similar parallels. Both certainly have their shocking moments, but with WOW, the tone is much more comedic. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have laughed as hard or as much with any other movie this year.
I find it particularly refreshing to see Leonardo DiCaprio play a much more comedic role, because he has the chops to pull it off. His take on Belfort presents him as a larger than life, scenery chewing, preacher in the church of the almighty dollar. His scenes where he pumps up and motivates his employees are absolutely breathtaking and incredible. DiCaprio also believably and hilariously plays his “drugged up” scenes beautifully.
Both he and Jonah Hill make an excellent duo in the film. Hill also is a comedic revelation here, delivering a rich and immersive performance. It also helps that he has some amazingly white teeth with awesome glasses and costumes that dress his buffoonery oh so well. The film also features superb supporting performances and appearances by Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, and Joanna Lumley. I cannot recall one weak link in the cast whatsoever.
The movie has earned an R rating from the MPAA and it definitely is a hard R. One of my colleagues at the screening expressed his amazement that the film didn’t get an NC-17 rating, because Scorsese and his crew, without a doubt, push the envelope. The film contains strong language, heavy drug use, strong sexual content and nudity. I just thought I’d issue that warning because I know some people with more delicate constitutions will find this film highly distasteful. I suppose that is the point, though. Greed corrupts and can turn people into distasteful, abhorrent creatures. Terrence Winter and Martin Scorsese have taken this true story of debauchery, excess and repugnance and put a riotous, satirically comedic spin on it. The result is another cinematic masterpiece.