Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

This will be my last blog post of the year [Editor’s Note: No shit, Sherlock]. Hopefully I won’t be idle too long as January is my anniversary and my annual Top Ten movie list. 

Anyway today we’re looking at The Wolf of Wall Street, a film based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort. Now Belfort is kind of the poster boy for reckless and immoral pursuit of capitalistic ends that messed up our economy so badly. Hench the idea of Hollywood making a movie about his exploits is a bit unsettling. Regardless this film has been in the works for a long time. Leonardo DiCaprio apparently was in a bidding war with Brad Pitt over the film rights to this flick, which DiCaprio eventually won, but the movie was in developmental hell for a few years before it was finally green lit. Martin Scorsese, who had been on and off the project for the beginning, came on as director. This movie had some potential however its dicey subject matter and the fear of glorifying what is one of the most maddening type of criminal act in modern American culture puts a big flashing warning light on top of it. I’m not sure it was moral of me to even watch this film at all but for the sake of this blog I hesitantly did so.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers. But take in mind this movie is based on real events, so I don't feel that bad about it. You crybaby]


Behold, the pinnacle of human culture!
Look upon these acts and weep!
Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), a young man from the Bronx who dreams of being rich, has just taken his first step in the world of stockbrokers. However on his first day as a licensed broker the market crashes worldwide effectively ending his career before it even started. Down on his luck Belfort takes a job at an outbound call center that deals in penny stocks, which are usually not looked upon favorably in Wall Street but he soon realizes with that with the right tricks and a lackluster morality he could become filthy rich in little time. With his increasing fortune and seemingly insatiable ambition Belfort soon builds an empire of greed, debauchery and manipulation.

The main thing you have to keep in mind when watching this film is that it’s being told by an unreliable narrator. Belfort is telling this story and we know that he’s a lying egotistic asshole. So everything we see must be taken with a grain of salt. I think the major reason people have been saying the film glorifies that excessive lifestyle or that the film doesn’t show enough of the victims didn’t take this fact into account. Of course the story is like that; Belfort loves doing drugs and banging hookers but doesn’t care about the people he screwed over and he’s the one telling us the story!

Drugs are good; they let you do things that you know you not should
And when you do them people think that you're cool

Furthermore the character of the Jordan Belfort is intriguing. An antihero in the truest sense in the word Belfort is a terrible, terrible human being whose character development actually makes him worse over time and the lessons he learns are pretty much all the wrong ones. He is not likeable and you do not want to root for him but that is also the point of the film. He’s the villain of his own movie; you want him to fail and you want it all to come crashing down. I know I normally mention that I prefer likable protagonists but I liked the dynamic here. Actually if you did find Belfort to be a sympathetic character that you admired and his exploits something you would like to emulate please kindly f**k off because I don’t trust you. Certainly not with my money.

The movie as whole does everything you need from a very well done film; it’s well acted, it look pretty smooth, the script is solid, it’s full of naked ladies. Okay, that last one isn’t really an appropriate plus however if you like naked ladies this will float your boat. The ensemble supporting cast was good, with surprisingly good efforts from Jonah Hill and Jon Bernthal and a fantastic extended cameo by Matthew McConaughey. The writing of the film was good and the plot was gripping and tension filled. The dialogue was good (now this movie has the record for most f-bombs uttered in a film) though I think I would say American Hustle did a better job on this front.

There aren’t a giant amount of bad points to this film but there are some concerns. I wish we had gotten to know some of the satellite characters a bit more, or even if they just had more to do. I mean for God’s sake Ethan Suplee in in this flick but I think he has all of two lines. With as long as this movie was you’d think there’d be a little more time for some of these guys to get a few scenes telling us who they were. Speaking of the length this movie is approximately three and a half weeks long. It’s longer than The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and that’s just crazy. It doesn’t waste it’s time, every second is put to good use, but sitting though a movie about rich white guys doing cocaine for that long is not just annoying, it’s rage inducing. By the time the movie ended I was ready to beat the shit out of the guy behind just because I'd been sitting too long and I didn’t like his face.

"Being rich and white in America is AWESOME!"
I think my biggest problem with the movie was the ending, which is stupid because this is a film based on real life events and as far as I understand that’s how it happened. But it bugs me that after everything we see [SPOILER ALERT] Belfort gets off with basically a slap on the wrist for all the horrible acts he commits. At the very least the ending kind has a sort of bittersweet tone that actually is probably supposed to invoke a sad ending. I don’t think most people will see it that way though.

I’ve been racking my brain all day about what I should rate this film. On the one hand it’s a great film with much of what I love about the medium being displayed. On the other hand it’s a bit reckless in its portrayal of events and while I don’t think they’re trying to endorse the lifestyle shown it’s easy to see why people might think they are. I really, really like this film and I think it’s one of Scorsese’s best movies. I was disgusted and physically revolted by much of what I saw while at the same time desperate to see what happened next. I tried to give it 4 out of 5 but, like with Wreck-It Ralph a year ago, every time I started to I felt like I’m underselling it.

Pictured: The Cult of Personality
(Also Quaalude)
I hesitantly give The Wolf of Wall Street 5 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


Pros 

-A great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio 

-Very good performances from the rest of the cast 

-Well written and directed 

Cons 

-Very, very long 

-Could be thought of as glorifying the very thing it’s trying to condemn

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