The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
“The Wolf of Wall Street,” director Martin Scorsese’s finest film since his last film (“Hugo,” still an all-time favorite), is raunchy. It’s really, really raunchy. It’s a party anthem music video stained with booze and vomit. Spoiler alert? Hardly. What might surprise you? It’s f*cking hysterical.
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a late-80s Gatsby, living in the excess of partying, women, alcohol, and drugs. Lots of drugs. Money never sleeps? With so much coke, neither does Belfort. But he earned it, I guess. After the big-time stock market didn’t work out for him, he turned to penny stocks, making hundreds of millions of dollars with a rag-tag group of friends (mostly drug dealers). “Was it all legal?” he asks the camera. No. But that doesn’t stop him from enjoying it as long as he can.
If Martin Scorsese is known for one thing, it’s telling a thorough narrative, the full story, giving us everything we need to know about what we’re seeing. If he’s known for two things, it’s being perhaps too thorough, going a half-hour or so too long. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a three-hour-long saga, ranging from Belfort’s first day in stocks to his last. You get the whole picture. But there’s no doubt it could have been shaved down in a few spots.
Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar. I know, pick up your chin. This time, though, he deserves one. Christian Bale proves himself a star in “American Hustle,” but nobody can outshine Leo in a performance that ranged from utterly hilarious to undeniably melancholic. Of the 180 minutes, he had to be in about 170 of them. And he commands the screen every second he has it. Leo surely hasn’t lost his youthful vigor, playing Belfort from 22 to 36. He’s a livewire. And he knocks his performance out of the park. You can tell he’s having a ball. Jonah Hill deserves supporting actor acclaim for his hilarious, radically-80s performance as Belfort’s business partner, Donnie (based on the real-life Danny Porush). Hill gives the performance of a lifetime. In an unfortunately minor role, Matthew McConaughey is fantastic as Belfort’s first Wall Street boss.
Scorsese’s newest is also incredibly self-aware, a cerebral, dark comedy that knows what it wants to be. Leo talks to the audience, explaining Wall Street lingo when he uses it, telling us what we need to hear and what we want to know. It’s a blast. You’ll see soon enough, but “Wolf” is certainly on my shortlist of the best films of 2013. And it may be too bold and controversial for Best Picture, but when the bell rings at the end of Oscar night, I see a “Wolf” market.