THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, 2013
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, P.J. Byrne, Jon Favreau
Review by Matthew Toffolo
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
What I Loved About This Movie:
Martin Scorsese's direction. No matter who you are, you get wrapped up into the world he creates for his audience. Whether it's the setting of gangsters, billionaires, kids living at a train station, or the lives of greedy little bastards like The Wolf of Wall Street. He has that ability to be very busy with his directing; Constantly moving the camera. Mixing quick cuts with very long shots. And giving us two perspectives in the same film: The perspective of the main character and what he sees, while also showing us the world of what others see and how they perceive the main character. And it always works for him. He's a director who's impossible to replicate and 1000s of amateur and professional filmmakers have tried. He's one of the all-time greats. Nobody can steel from his mastery. Not even Quentin Tarantino, who steals from everyone. Even Quentin knows that he can't steal from Marty.
What I Liked About This Movie:
The theme of GREED in our society. How it's really the great addiction of our world, and how that addiction seems to be spreading faster and faster into people's worlds. It's the Polio of our time and something that needs to stop. If you study history, greed is usually the cause of why certain societies have failed. And every society has eventually failed. But it seems like Greed has taken a life of its own and it can't be stopped. It's as a few intellectuals have stated: Too Big To Fail.
The last shot of the film finishes the film's thesis statement by showing a crowd of various people from different generations and cultures wanting to know how to make money. The problem isn't the main character Jordan Belfort. The problem is us. We want money because we want stuff. And we want stuff because we want to be happy. And stuff is the addiction because we think stuff will make us happy. And you need to have stuff and money in order to understand that it won't make you happy. And on and on we go.
There will be comparisons to Scorsese's masterpiece 'Goodfellas' to this film. And there is an obvious parallel to the world of mid-level gangsters and the world of mid-level Stock-Brokers. Both of these groups have blue-color type minds and roots but want white-color lives. So in order for them to get that world, they steal, cheat and screw over 1000s of people to get what they want. They are bad people. And worse than anything else, they are lazy people. And that's the real problem with society: people don't want to do the work to get the things they want. OR, people know that life isn't fair and it's impossible to get to the world they want to be in unless they cheat their way to it. Is it society's fault for the mess we're in, or is it the individual's fault?
Leonardo DiCaprio's performance. It's so good. This is a 3 hour film and he's in every single scene. He carries this film on his back and that makes him a great actor and a movie star all at the same time. And there's not many of those out there now, in the past, and in the future. He's one of about 20 actors in the history of film who could have done this role. And he is probably the best person I ever saw on film who portrays someone being on drugs better than him.
What I Didn't Like About This Movie:
There's a lot actually. I love Scorsese films, but this perhaps could be one of his worst films.
There's a moment in the middle of the film when the main character, Jordan Belfort, is talking to his father. His dad is shocked by the world and business he created and what he spends his money on. Jordan conceives that yes this world is a little over the top. And his father replies: "It's more than over the top, it's obscene."
And that's what The Wolf of Wall Street is: It's obscene. It's at times too much of the same obscenities. Too much nudity. Too much drug taking. Too many shots showing too many people fucked up. Too many "greed is good" like speeches. I get what he's trying to say: it's all too much and this is what these people are. But sometimes enough is enough.
And that's my real point of criticism of this film: There isn't much of a journey for the main character. We are introduced to him as a wided-eyed new stock-broker who wants to get into the game of Wall Street. He seems like a good guy: Married, loves his wife, wants to do a good job and be proud of himself. Then Matthew McConaughey (channeling Wooderson from Dazed and Confused 20 years later) gives him a speech on how to be a douchebag but a successful douchebag 15 minutes into the film. Then for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the same character who never changes. A greedy dick who is probably a sociopath. That's his character arc.
Where's his journey? And where are all the other character's journeys?
Every single female character in this film is one-dimensional. Jordan's wife is one of the main characters in the movie and we know nothing about her. What her motivation is? Does she really love Jordan? What kind of person is she? NOTHING. She might as well be a cardboard cutout. And if you want to criticize Martin Scorsese and his films, you can criticise him for that. His female characters tend to be cardboard cutouts and cliches of what certain women are and not really real-life people.
There isn't a person in this film that any of us should like. They are all douchebags. And that's not always a bad thing. I loved Goodfellas and we know that they are all douchebags too. But what fascinates us is when we learn who these people are and what makes them tick. All we learn about Jordan is that he likes money and things and that's what makes him tick. After about 1 hour in, we want more. There was a scene when all of the main characters are on a Yacht in the middle of a gigantic ocean storm. I wanted that boat to sink and for all of them to die to end this film. That's not a good sign when you feel that way. And no matter how much of a murdering, bad father/husband, jackass Henry Hill from Goodfellas was, we still wanted him to live because we knew who he was inside. We kind of knew who Jordan Belford was and what we knew about him was that we wanted him dead at the bottom of the ocean. And all of his friends and family members there too.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an interesting viewing experience, but I have to say that I didn't like it all that much.