Ever since that first trailer arrived for The Wolf of Wall Street I have wanted to watch this movie. Which is not something that happens very often these days, mostly because I’m wary of films that have attractive trailers. The actual films have proven to be disappointments so I reserve judgment, and enthusiasm, after being burned once too often by Hollywood product from 2013. Even so, something about Scorsese, DiCaprio, and that Kanye West song did a good job of melting away my reservation.
The Wolf of Wall Street became the first movie I watched in 2014 and I consider it a good start even though, in the final analysis, the film didn’t quite come together.
The film is based on the so-ridiculous-it-must-be-true memoir of one Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker in New York. I have not read the book but this movie has enough insanity packed into its three-hour run time to suggest that superhumans do walk amongst us. How else to explain that a man who consumed enough drugs to keep large boroughs of New York intoxicated for a month is still alive? How else do hardworking everyday folk make peace with the fact that this guy lived such a (largely) consequence-free life than to tell themselves that the rules are different for rich people?
Because this is one crazy, messed up story. And considering the amount of time we are forced to confront the insanity that was one man’s life, and lifestyle, it will be an achievement for people to avoid hitting the bottle immediately after exiting the cinema.
There are some really committed performances in this movie. Jonah Hill is just the right amount of batshit crazy as Donnie Azoff, the family man who quit his job to go work for Belfort when he saw how much money the latter was already making. Margot Robbie is equally committed as the hot blonde who catches the much-married Belfort’s eye at a beach house party one day and goes on to become his second wife. Matthew McConaughey and Kyle Chandler have small but significant parts that they really sink their teeth into. Even Mr. DiCaprio brings a manic energy to his role as the central character.
But the person who amazes and exhausts us with the sheer energy he’s putting out off that screen for three hours is Mr. Martin Scorsese. To think that this is the movie this man has made at the age of seventy-one fills me with hope (for my own career), encouragement (you’re never too old to have a good time), and no small amount of envy.
Final Analysis: It’s true, the movie doesn’t quite come together. Mostly because even if the filmmaker and the leading man have taken pains to assert that they aren’t empathizing with Mr. Belfort, the majority of this movie plays like a celebration of the man’s life, and (good) times. His fall is treated as a mere afterthought. And since there is no denying that many people were burned financially through having dealt with Mr. Belfort’s company, there is no way to avoid feeling a tremendous sense of uneasiness from having to watch a movie that–whether it wants to, or not–seems to celebrate the lifestyle he lived from his questionably-achieved gains.
My Advice: Be sure to go to the bathroom before the movie begins. Uneven though it may be, you have to watch The Wolf of Wall Street. Because it is a Martin Scorsese picture. And he seems to be having the time of his life with it.