Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

By James Colt Harrison

Martin Scorcese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” is either a magnificent disaster or the greatest film ever made. Touted as a black comedy, the film is based on real-life character Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street trader, in a screenplay by Terence Winter. Leonardo DiCaprio is on board as both star and one of the producers.

Scorcese’s directing style tends to be flagrantly florid, and in this Paramount film he let’s all guidelines be thrown out the window and permits an “anything goes” style to creep in time and time again. Perhaps the story of an out-of-control New York stock trader allows this sort of filmmaking as Belfort apparently had no barriers himself. As such, Scorcese’s mile-a-minute pacing and grand style fits the story and the characters. Famed film editor Thelma Schoonmaker has cut the film at a breakneck speed that dazzles and dizzies the viewer. Extravagant and wildly entertaining, the film depicts many bad boys doing bad things with great joy.

Belfort began his career as an enthusiastic kid in his early 20s and started up the respectable company that he headed. He greatly motivated all his young workers into bilking prospective investors. For this service Belfort was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering.

Early in the film, Matthew McConaughey has one sensational scene when he tutors the wet-behind-the-ears DiCaprio’s character in what it takes to become successful. He being addled with booze and drugs, McConaghey dominates the screen in this funny take on what was a typical Wall Street player. Both actors play off each other beautifully, and it is the kind of show-stopping scene that gets actors Oscars®.

Jonah Hill has made a terrific career playing second bananas, and he turns in a ”take-notice” performance as he idol worships DiCaprio’s Belfort. He easily accepts the high-pressure job of selling penny stocks to suckers and makes money in the process. Hill is likeable and funny, too, and easily falls into DiCaprio’s trap of the debauched life of drink, drugs, and easy girls.

Another character DiCaprio uses to further his nefarious schemes is his wife’s British aunt Emma. Played deliciously by Joanna Lumley, she is stylishly sexy and elegant and takes it all with aplomb when she is asked to stash Belfort’s money in Swiss banks. It’s a stand-out performance and a pleasure to watch.

DiCaprio plays the “sleaze and excess” as never before, and he lets himself go with relish. It’s a large role and a dominating one and possibly his best acting to date. This is his fifth film with Scorcese, and the two men seem to understand each other and work well together to turn out great works of art.

This is definitely a film for adults and not for children. It is filled with sex, drinking, drug taking, and despicable behavior. Make sure your teens don’t sneak in to see this film as they will love it. But it’s not for them and only for your adult eyes. Your own eyes may pop from seeing some of the wild party scenes, but you’ll be able to recover by putting an ice pack on your head.


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