Martin Scorsese, one of the industry’s biggest directors, teams up with the golden goose that is Leonardo DiCaprio to bring the real-life story of Jordan Belfort to the big screen. Some movies are released in late December to be eligible for next year’s Academy Awards and there’s already mumbling that this film might be up for a plethora of awards.
The gist. DiCaprio stars as former stock broker Jordan Belfort and it follows his rise in the world of the stock exchange and what that sort of world does to a man. Jonah Hill plays one of his initial partners Donnie. Other stars include Matthew McConaughy, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner, and Margot Robbie. Note: The movie is based on a book actually written by Jordan Belfort, who actually appears in the film’s final scene.
DiCaprio absolutely steals the show and it’s starting to seem like the guy can do everything. I had initially compared this to his performance in The Great Gatsby because he plays the millionaire who lives a lavish life but these performances are two very different things. Gatsby is a much more likeable character but Belfort is such a force of nature that you’re drawn to him. He’s a horrible person but you can’t help but be fascinated by the trainwreck. The movie features two conventions that could’ve done more harm than good: an excess of monologues and breaking the fourth wall. DiCaprio nailed them both. He often gives long rousing motivational speeches but every single one was impressive and will no doubt serve as theatre student fodder for many years. And the movie helps us as an audience understand the world by having Belfort literally tell us what’s happening but Belfort’s confidence makes these moments perfect.
Jonah Hill is pretty outstanding in this film as well, especially considering the arc his character takes. Him and Leo have a scene involving an excess of Quaaludes that is hilarious and yet strikingly emotional.
This isn’t a happy story, even though it features a lot of celebration. We, as an audience, know that things won’t end great, so we have this hesitation about about all the celebrating. So while this isn’t a positive story, it does however provide a lot of entertainment. I loved every minute of this movie, even considering our protagonist is a mess and a jerk and generally not a very nice person.
What makes this film enjoyable is hands down the writing. I credit writer Terence Winter (The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, most notably). There are scenes of just conversations, reminiscent of Sorkin or Tarantino, that are just mindblowingly amazing. It’s simple, just a snapshot of this world, but the conversation is so engrossing and revealing of their world, that it’s impossible to look away. Impeccable dialogue.
What doesn’t work?
This a very adult movie and even a few older folks in my theater got up and left midway through (as there was a pretty graphic sex scene taking place). If you’re interested in a story about a character and that world they lived in, this is the place for you, but you have to have the stomach for it. Not for those easily offended.
This movie has all the qualities that a great movie should strive for. Incredible and engaging story, exceptional dialogue, and great casting. For a three-hour movie, I still found myself wanting more. That is a testament to how incredible The Wolf of Wall Street is. Expect to see a few Oscar nods for this gem, so you want to make sure to catch it in theaters while you can.