There isn’t much that can be said about Martin Scorsese that hasn’t already been said and when the team that gave Gangs of New York, Aviator and The Departed team up again, you know you are in for a ride.
The movie is brilliantly acted, superbly written and as one would expect from a picture by Martin Scorsese, it is a master class of the directorial craft. The Wolf of Wall Street (TWOWS) is a roaring thrill ride that is both hilarious and meticulously constructed.
The movie (a true story) is based on the fiercely ambitious Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) who wants nothing more in life than to become the next Gordan Gecko. He begins his stock broking career under the guidance of the ardent salesman Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who teaches him all he would ever need to learn about the art of selling, the good, the bad and the ugly about peddling ‘dreams’. But soon “Black Monday” hits and Belfort is out on the street. With no mood to give in, Belfort comes across the (highly lucrative and profitable) world of “penny stocks”. The world of penny stocks is unregulated (more or less) and Belfort begins to accrue his army of like-minded individuals which begins the birth of his own empire. People from his neighbor Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) to his local drug dealer, Brad (John Bernthal) join his company “Stratton Oakmont” to make hay while the sun shines.
Money rolls in and Belfort and his cronies begin reveling in the depravity only the filthy rich know how. It’s a boy’s company and they act worse than kids in a free candy store all the way making terrible life choices that they still aren’t aware of until this day. Drugs, sex and obnoxious toys are the order of the day and Belfort begins to lose is grip over reality soon enough. But of course, the chickens do eventually come home to roost and FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins to launch an investigation into the shady practices of the fiscal giant. The rest is history.
TWOWS is a masterful dark comedy sprinkled with little bits of drama. Natural comparisons to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street are to be made and this should be considered a compliment. Though I would go one step ahead and say TWOWS is more of Wall Street meets Goodfellas. The greed, the power, the rampant drug abuse and the “family” in Stratton Oakmont makes it much similar to the mafia, just that these guys commit a different kind of crime.
Scorsese keeps the story a tad larger than life and the character interpretation is amusing to say the least. He puts together a star cast that includes DiCaprio (no surprise there), Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernathal, and Kyle Chandler, all of which seem to be literally having too much fun while having “too much fun.” Terence Winter’s brings his Sopranos skills to the game and how! His script is on its A-Game and it is a work of a demigod.
The acting is par excellence to say the least. The entire movie is led brilliantly from start to finish by the one man. From a “Get Rich or die trying” attitude to his monologues about life, money, and greed, Leonardo (LDC) has now broken into a new level of acting. From the kid who broke on the scene in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and later became a heart throb (literally overnight) in Titanic, from a hooligan and a roughneck in Gangs of New York to a smooth criminal in Catch Me If You Can, from Howard Hughes to Monsieur Candie, LDC has grown as an actor with each movie and this role is probably one of his best till date, which judging by his illustrious past is no mean feat. This is something that might help him get his long overdue Academy Award. The sequence of DiCaprio crawling on the floor will probably be the scene of the year.
Jonah Hill has shown great depth in his acting repertoire and I or one was frankly impressed by his screen presence in the movie. Margot Robbie (double drool) does a wonderful job of being the sexy trophy wife who usually audiences hate to the wife who is just frustrated by it all. A special mention must go to Matthew McConaughey as well for his brief but marvelous role.
A good book, a great screenplay and a delightful cast were formed and molded into what could help get Scorsese a best director Oscar and a Best Picture Nomination.
The only drawback (if any) would be that we get no clue as to how closely this film adapts the real-life events and at times its almost impossible to believe that things could have gone this far. The overall theme though does seem to be about “greed” in general and I guess that is what Scorsese was targeting. It is that very excess that underscores the key theme and disparagement’s on the American dream.
Similar to the way Goodfellas glorified the lifestyle of mafia, TWOWS has attempted to create an enticement to the immoral habits of stockbrokers wallowing in hedonism, that being said, the movie is worth every minute of its 180 and is a must watch for anyone interested in movies with a feel.