This is certainly one of those films that you either absolutely love or downright hate, and I can understand why. Martin Scorsese’s latest work, The Wolf of Wall Street, really isn’t that much different from many of his other pictures except for the intensity of the vulgarity -the literal sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – which turns certain people off from the film. The use of 569 F-words, numerous sex scenes including a gay orgy, the consumption of copious amounts of Vitamin B (posing as cocaine) and Quaalude’s, as well as speeding cars, helicopters and yachts, all add to the excessive feeling and tone that the movie captures so well, love it or hate it. Whether or not you enjoyed this film, you cannot deny how energized it is and that watching it was probably the quickest 180 minutes of your life.
It is easy for someone watching The Wolf of Wall Street to miss many of the film’s truly great aspects due to this vulgarity. The endless bare breasts and drunken and/or high (usually and) benders that the majority of the characters go on may serve as a kind of invisibility cloak for the less well-trained moviegoer. First off, the wittiness, intelligence, and authenticity of the dialogue is likely the most impressive thing about The Wolf of Wall Street. The script, penned by the Sopranos genius Terry Winter, is undeniably phenomenal; see “the McConaughey lunch scene,” “the Jean Dujardin negotiating scene,” “the epic f@#king DiCaprio speech scenes.” At the same time, however, Scorsese encourages his muses to improvise, delve deeply into their characters and bring that necessary authenticity to their performances and the film. It is this combination of impeccable writing and spontaneous inspiration that makes the dialogue in this film so good.
In addition, the acting is just flat-out damn good. You’d never think Australian newcomer Margot Robbie wasn’t from Brooklyn her whole life. But it is ultimately Leonardo DiCaprio, perhaps the most deserving of an Oscar non-Oscar winner in the history of cinema, who steals the show. The thirty-nine year-old plays the mid-twenty-something, real life former stock broker, Jordan Belfort, with both great humor and intensity. Throughout his entire career, his turn in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is the only possible contender for a more in-depth performance. I like to say that DiCaprio “hides in plain sight” when he acts. He does not, generally speaking (and aside from that stretch in the The Aviator), change his appearance by growing out his facial hair or shaving his head, gain or lose excessive amounts of weight or put on a pair of glasses. But still, you never see Leonardo DiCaprio when you watch one of his films, you only see that character. While I have fully hopped on the McConaughey bandwagon, who is also great in this film, I do firmly believe that DiCaprio was absolutely robbed by the Academy in February. Jonah Hill’s was no lame performance either. He, too, pulled out all the stops, albeit totally changing his physical appearance.
Scorsese’s directing style in this film is yet another love-it-or-hate-it-type deal. You feel like you are high while you watch this movie. You feel energized, pumped up, excited, enthusiastic; you laugh really loud at the funny stuff and shout really loud at the parts you do not like. I remember seeing this film on Christmas 2013 in a packed theater, and I felt like I was sitting in the Straton Oakmont main office, with all its commotion and insanity. For those who feel that the scene to scene editing is a bit off, Scorsese has stated plainly that that was his intention. Jordan is high for more or less the entire runtime of the film, and Scorsese, wanting the audience to see and feel the movie from Jordan’s perspective, purposefully made each scene “stumble” into the next.
I also really enjoyed seeing Spike Jonze, Rob Reiner, and Jon Favreau in this film. While Favreau is my personal favorite of the three as directors, I was extremely impressed by Reiner’s performance in the film because one, he was exceptionally comedic, and two, because he really embodied a caring father. From his calling Jordan “Jordy” to his proud smile at his son’s wedding, Reiner really was on-point. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about the use of color in this film. Scorsese uses a plethora of vibrant, rich colors, whether they come in the form of a flashy suit or a breathtaking shot of the Caribbean Sea. This really speaks to that excessive, larger than life tone that I previously spoke of. Jordan lives in a grandiose world, which makes his fall from elegance all the greater.
This film is one of my all-time favorites, but it is understandable if some people do not share my opinions on the film. Some are overwhelmed by the immense vulgarity, while others see the film as glorifying Jordan’s behavior. When it comes down to it, though, this film delivered in all the ways I wanted it to, it was unique and it was hilarious, and I loved it.