Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013 film)

Based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiographical novel, The Wolf of Wall Street is the story of Belfort’s rise to the top of Wall Street in the late 80s as he would later fall through his involvement in crime, corruption, and his battles with the federal government. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Terence Winters, the film is an exploration into the excessive world of 1980s capitalism and greed where a man is eager to make money at any cost as Belfort is played by Leonardo diCaprio. Also starring Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, and Matthew McConaughey. The Wolf of Wall Street is a wild, riotous, and absolutely insane film from Martin Scorsese.

The film’s simple concept is the classic rise and fall scenario of a stock broker named Jordan Belfort who decides to sell penny stock to common people in order to make lots of money and build a business for himself where he would be a major king of Wall Street in the late 80s and early 90s after the stock market crash of 1987. It’s a film that shows how this ambitious young man became a common trader working on Wall Street to forging his own empire where he gets everything and more in life only to be targeted by the FBI for money laundering and all sorts of illegal activities. Even as he brings in those who have no knowledge on how to sell stock be part of his empire where they would also fall with him.

Terence Winters’ screenplay uses that classic rise-and-fall scenario as it is told by Jordan Belfort who reveals his ambitions early on and how he would become this new king after the infamous October 1987 Black Monday crash. The Belfort character isn’t afraid to make himself un-likeable at times where the first scene he’s in is a montage of his very extravagant life where drives a white Porsche while getting a blow-job from his second wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) and working to make all sorts of crazy money and cap the night of more partying where he is snorting cocaine off of a hooker’s ass and then come home on a helicopter he’s trying to pilot. It’s a montage that showcases the life that Belfort leads that is unpredictable and at times very immoral. Yet, Belfort doesn’t seem to care because he’s having too much fun making a ridiculous amount of money with his friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and the other lowly stockbrokers he trained to build his empire.

Much of the film is told through Belfort’s voice-over narration while there are moments where other characters speak in a voiceover that includes a scene in the third act where Belfort deals with a Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) where the dialogue they say to each other in voiceover is pretty damn funny. It’s among these moments that Winters creates in his script that showcases not just Belfort’s growing paranoia due to his own drug abuse but also how out of touch he’s becoming as he becomes richer where the FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) takes notice to see if Belfort does anything illegal. Even as Belfort’s antics in selling stock to make lots of money and his refusal to rat out his own friends would get him in trouble.

To describe Martin Scorsese’s direction as excessive would be understating exactly what he’s presenting. It’s a whole lot more of than that where Scorsese isn’t afraid to infuse some very lowbrow humor involving drugs and such in a film that has a high concept with a near three-hour running time. The humor that is prevalent throughout the film includes a lot of debauchery which is expected in a film about greed yet he takes it to a whole new level. While some of it maybe an exaggeration into what Scorsese and Winters are telling but it is very comical into the antics that Belfort and his buddies do such as an orgy in an airplane or popping a decade-old Quaaludes. The latter of which involves a pretty long yet hilarious sequence that includes some of the most insane moments that Scorsese has ever presented where it mixes high and lowbrow humor.

Much of Scorsese’s direction is stylish in not just his compositions but also in some of the action that occurs where many of the scenes in the stock building that Belfort runs is like a jungle where even a monkey works at the place. It is all about selling bullshit to people whether they’re rich or poor where there is this great scene early in the film in which Belfort shows his old buddies the idea of selling. Much of it is shot in New York City as well as Britain, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean as it is about excess at its most debauched. Of course, the third act has Scorsese sort of slow things down a bit but also find ways for everything to come down and crash hard. Overall, Scorsese crafts a film that is like a wild rollercoaster ride times a 100 that is full of chaos, shock value, and lots of laughs.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the sunny look of the scenes in New York and in the Mediterranean to some of the interior scenes as well as some of the stuff that occurs at night. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does fantastic work with the film‘s editing where it does emphasize on style from its use of montages, slow-motion cuts, jump-cuts, and all sorts of things to play out the decadence. Production designer Bob Shaw, with set decorator Ellen Christansen and art director Chris Shriver, does amazing work with the look of the mansion that Belfort lives in as well as the place he works where it was once a garage and then turned into an empire as well as the look of the yacht he would buy in the film‘s second act.

Costume designer Sandy Powell does excellent work with the clothes such as the stuff the women wear in the late 80s as well as the sexy clothes that Naomi would wear or not wear. Prosthetic makeup designer Michael Marino does nice work with the prosthetic teeth that Jonah Hill wears to play Donnie as well as some of the look of Belfort‘s team with their fake hair and such. Visual effects supervisors Robert Legato and Dan Seddon do terrific work with some of the film‘s visual effects such as the cocaine flying in the room in slow-motion to a very extravagant scene involving the yacht in treacherous waters. Sound editors Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton do superb work with the sound from the way phones and computers are heard to the sounds of revving engines and such to play into that world of excess.

Music supervisor Randall Poster and compiler Robbie Robertson create a music soundtrack that is pretty wild. Ranging from rock, blues, and hip-hop, the music in the film is definitely a highlight where it includes cuts by Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, the Lemonheads, Romeo Void, Joe Cuba, Naughty by Nature, Bo Diddley, Billy Joel, Malcolm McLaren, Cypress Hill, Devo, Sir-Mix-a-Lot, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings making an appearance as the wedding band singing Goldfinger, the Foo Fighters, Umberto Tozzi, Plastic Bertrand, and an original track by Robbie Robertson with Matthew McConaughey.

The casting by Ellen Lewis is just incredible for the large ensemble that was created for the film. Among these notable small roles include Spike Jonze as a lowly stock analyst who would show Belfort the penny stocks, Shea Whigham as the yacht’s captain, Christine Ebersole as Jordan’s mother, Katarina Cas as Brad’s European wife Chantelle who would have money taped to her body, Jake Hoffman as women’s shoe designer Steve Madden, Mackenzie Meehan as Donnie’s wife, Jon Spinogatti as Naomi and Jordan’s gay butler at the apartment, and Jon Favreau as Belfort’s securities officer who would deal with the FBI and ensure that they don’t interfere. In the roles of Belfort’s fellow stockbrokers, there’s Stephanie Kurtzuba as the single mom turned power broker Kimmie Belzer, Kenneth Choi as Walter, P.J. Byrne as the wild Rugrat who has big connections, Brian Saca as Robbie Feinberg, and Ethan Suplee as Toby Welch.

Rob Reiner is very funny as Belfort’s father Max who is shocked by his son’s job and wealth where he helps him while being a very brash man who refuses to take shit from anyone. Jon Bernthal is excellent as Belfort’s friend Brad who works on the outside to ensure that the money goes into the pockets of Belford and associates. Cristin Milioti is wonderful as Belfort’s first wife Teresa who is this simple Jersey girl who becomes alienated by Belfort’s growing power and later discovering his infidelity. Jean Dujardin is fantastic as the Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Saurel who appears in the film’s third act as he is someone that Belfort doesn’t like yet is a very sly businessman who is just fun to watch. Joanna Lumley is superb as Naomi’s aunt Emma who would aid Belfort in his money laundering schemes in Europe where Lumley also brings in some humor to the film.

Matthew McConaughey is amazing in a small but crucial role as Belfort’s mentor Mark Hanna who shows Belfort the ropes and how to keep his energy going as McConaughey makes every moment he appears in the first act as just one full of joy. Kyle Chandler is great as Patrick Denham as this straight-laced FBI agent who despises Belfort as he wants to do what he feels is right for America and take down those who are ripping off the American people. Margot Robbie is brilliant as Belfort’s second wife Naomi as this very sensual woman who becomes everything that Belfort wants yet has a hard time dealing with his excesses and consumption for everything where she manages to go to toe-to-toe with diCaprio in some very intense scenes. Jonah Hill is phenomenal as Donnie Azoff as a lowly working-class man who quits his job to make the kind of money that Belfort has as he becomes Belfort’s sidekick while doing all sorts of crazy things that range from being extremely funny to just extremely terrifying.

Finally, there’s Leonardo diCaprio in what is absolutely an unforgettable performance as Jordan Belfort. It’s a role where diCaprio isn’t afraid to do all sorts of lewd things where he can be inspiring with some of the monologues he carries while showing that he is also hilarious. Some of which proves that this is someone who should be in comedies as he has a natural charm and gift to be funny while also being very dark. It’s one where diCaprio isn’t afraid to be an asshole or do the kind of things that make people wonder how is still alive from all of that cocaine and Quaaludes. It’s a truly tour-de-force performance that proves that diCaprio is among one of the best actors working today.

The Wolf of Wall Street is an outstanding yet thrilling film from Martin Scorsese that features a towering performance from Leonardo diCaprio. Along with a kick-ass soundtrack and a great supporting cast, it’s a film that explores the world of decadence and greed at its most extreme and debauched. Especially as Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winters infuse it with some dark, lowbrow humor that makes the film far more enjoyable as it’s definitely one of Scorsese’s most entertaining films. In the end, The Wolf of Wall Street is a magnificent film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) - (Street Scenes) - Boxcar Bertha - (Mean Streets) - Italianamerican - Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New York - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) - Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - Goodfellas - Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) - (Casino) - (Kundun) - (My Voyage to Italy) - Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) - Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) - No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) - (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - (The Fifty Year Argument) - Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman) - Killers of the Flower Moon - (An Afternoon with SCTV)

© thevoid99 2013


Dan O. said...

I had a great time with this, and I think I was supposed to. However, I will say that for all of its length, there could have been more development in the way of getting to know these characters a bit better, and see them for more than just the money-hungry, greedy S.O.B.'s that they are. Then again, that could be all that they are so it makes sense if that's only how they're painted for us to see. Good review man. Happy holidays!

Stevee Taylor said...

Saw this today, and maaaaaaaan, I loved it! Just such a great time, and definitely put a new spin on the oft used "rise and fall" story. Leonardo DiCaprio was dynamite! Hope he gets an Oscar nom for this one, he truly deserves it.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan O.-I wish it was longer. As unlikeable as those characters are. I wanted to party with them and have all of that money and pie.

@Stevee-I'll be upset if Leo doesn't get an Oscar nod. I think this is definitely his performance. And somebody better put him in a comedy. He just made me laugh more than anyone this year.

s. said...

I really can't wait to see this one, awesome to read positive things about Jean, it's been a while since I've seen him in a movie.

thevoid99 said...

@Sati-Oh, he gets to have his moments where he proves to be pretty cool and a formidable match for Leo. It is definitely the funniest film I've seen all year as I have 2 more new films to watch for this year and that's it.