The Wolf of Wall Street Review

The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 dark comedy/crime drama written by Terrence Winter and directed by Martin Scorsese. The film was one of the most controversial movies in recent memory, being chatted up by critics and audiences for its absurd amount of sex, profane language and drug use and being slammed for apparently glorifying said elements.

Story
Based on the life of Wall Street broker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), Wolf centers around the titular anti-hero as he starts his own business selling bad penny stocks to naive cliental. Eventually, he builds a stock company so successful even his lowest paid worker is making gobs of money hand over fist. As Jordan continues to gain more and more money and indulges in an increasingly extravagant lifestyle of debauchery he and his employees must deal with the consequences of their actions, though not right away.

The film is a story of declining morality and how love for money truly is the root of all evil. However, the message will almost certainly get lost by those without an eye for ambiguity because the film never takes the time to address that what these people are doing is wrong. Jordan never once looks into the camera and says, "Yes, what I'm doing is so very wrong and I'm so ashamed of what I'm doing and I should be punished like the bad, evil person I am." What he does instead is he looks at the camera and says, "Yeah, I earned my money illegally, now watch me spend it on prostitutes and Quaaludes 'cause it's gonna feel F*CKING AWESOME!" However, even though it's never explicitly stated, you can constantly see the negative effects of Jordan's lifestyle; he cheats on his wife (both of them), steals billions of dollars, gets addicted to drugs, he's hounded by the FBI and he's ultimately morally numb. At one point in the movie he narrates that one of his coworkers went into a depression and killed himself he sounds like he could've give less of a crap about what happened to him. The film trusts that its audience is smart and morally conscious enough to understand that even though this kind of lifestyle is indeed fun, it's not worth the emotional, physical and moral damage that comes with it.

The screenplay is half the reason to see the movie as I can't remember hearing another one like it. It's slick, but it's also sounds realistic; I could imagine a group of fast talking Wall Street brokers talking like this.

Technical
To be perfectly upfront I've never been a fan of any of Scorsese's movies, but he won me over with Wolf. The cinematography in this movie is especially eye catching; the lighting combines with the color correction so that every color pops. The film has an almost constant yellow tinge to it. This may be to symbolize wealth, which is an obvious theme in the film.

The reason I didn't like a lot of Martin Scorsese's movies is because his editing always seemed terrible, with no shot continuity whatsoever. For example, in one shot of a conversation an actor will have his hands on a glass, but in a different shot we see him with his hands folded. I've never understood why Scorsese makes intentional mistakes. His editor for all of his movies, Thelma Schoonmaker, is an Oscar winning editor, so there must be something there that I'm missing, right? In Wolf Schoonmaker continues this editing style, but with good reason. According to an interview with Martin Scorsese he said he wanted the editing to be intentionally inconsistent to build a sense of unease, especially in scenes where the characters are on drugs.

The movie has a soundtrack entirely comprised of already-produced music, mostly classic rock and sleazy hip hop. It's pretty good for the most part, mostly because Scorsese knows exactly what kind of tone is needed in each scene.

I saw one reviewer remarking on how there wasn't a lot of background noise in the film. To use the example he used, when two people are sitting in a diner you can barely hear the clinking of glasses or people talking. Well, I don't really have a problem with that in either this scene or the rest of the film. In this scene, they're in an obviously high class restaurant, so it makes sense that everybody would be so quiet. Besides, it helps us focus on the fast-paced dialogue in this scene and in all the others. Secondly, in the rest of the movie, what's happening onscreen is either so captivatingly crazy or plain intense that any random environmental noise would distract from the moment, ruining the tone.

The acting is probably some of the best I've seen from a major motion picture in a long time. The entire cast add so much to the dialogue that they're probably the reason this script works at all; if these specific actors didn't deliver these specific lines in this specific way it wouldn't be nearly as good. It took me a few tries, but I'm finally onboard the Leonardo DiCaprio train; he is not only believable as the high-class anti-hero, but he's also completely captivating and fun to watch. This is probably the most range I've seen out of him since Gilbert Grape. Matthew McConaughey is only in the beginning of the movie, but his performance is probably the best; he steals his scene with DiCaprio as Jordan's Wall Street father figure through line delivery and body language so pitch perfect I couldn't ask for better. Jonah Hill is almost unrecognizable as Jordan's business partner, a stupid, vapid of Jordan himself. I'm not surprised that the world fell in love with Margot Robbie after this movie; she runs the range from sweet and sexy to hurt and emotionally distraught and she sells all of it. I just wish she was in better movies these days. The real highlight, for me at least, was Rob Reiner (yes, the director of The Princess Bride himself) as "Mad" Max Belfort, Jordan's rageaholic father. This is exactly what I meant when I said that the delivery makes the script work; if Rob Reinor didn't delivery these lines the way he did the they wouldn't be nearly as funny. He is seriously the funniest part of this whole movie.

Summary: Even though The Wolf of Wall Street is a fantastically made movie I can't say that I found it an enjoyable one. Perhaps I'm just not privy to stories where evil men ultimately get away with living lives of perverse hedonism. Sure, the acting's fantastic, the direction is good and the cinematography is gorgeous, but I'm not sure if that justifies the making of this movie. I admire that it's interested in teaching a lesson about greed for the sake of greed without preaching to us like Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, the message is so iced over with a thick layer of tits and cocaine that it doesn't hit as hard or resonate as well as it wants to and therefore doesn't leave a strong impact except for the feeling that you just watched something you're probably never getting out of your head. It's 3 hours of my life I'll never get back.

B-

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