The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)I began with the intention of setting out view that the character of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) from The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) was likeable. It’s not an easy question to answer with a straight yes or no. In short he’s not a likeable guy, but why? That’s the harder part to answer, because usually if you don’t like the lead or the hero, then you turn off or walk away, not caring for whatever happens to them. They’ve done nothing to deserve your sympathies. Unlike Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) who always wanted to be a gangster, ended up in over his head and gave evidence against his friends in court in Goodfellas (1990). There is none of that here in the cold hard world of making cash on Wall Street. We do have that same template, the aspiration for a better life, that comes at great cost to all involved, not just financially but emotionally and some physically. It’s DiCaprio’s incredible knock out of the park performance that saves this man of excess to be forgiven, and that alone.

And at the end of that we can stick around for an incredibly long-winded three-hour film, which reminds me more of Scorsese‘s Casino (1995) a more visually excessive film that moves at breakneck speed over the course of an individual who is caught up in a whirlwind of a messed up world. I can see where part of the film that were shaved to even ensure an 18 rating, could still be taken down at least another half an hour or so. The overall length reflects the excesses of the corrupt stockbrokers lives. Starting out at the bottom before the financial crash of the 1980’s which saw Belfort back to square one, after learning how to live the life of a stock broker thanks to his first boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who was his role model. Even though it was a small role for McConaughey it does make quite an impression on not just Belfort but the audience. McConaughey is definitely going through a golden period of regeneration in his career after slipping into a rom-com slump for a most of the last decade.

Turning to (Donnie Azoff) (Jonah Hill) Belfort’s partner in crime, with a lust for the high life, the security and luxury that comes with money in its excess. Both becoming addicted to drugs in all forms. Together and with the rest of the crooked high-flyers they enjoy a torrent of sex and drugs which on its own could account for a third of the films length, which is a lot when you take into account all that is a lot.

With all the excess there is a moral centre to it all in the form of those on the outside, the family of Belfort who can see beyond the short-term gains. Mainly in the form of his father Max Belfort (Rob Reiner)  who know that the “hens will come home to roost“. His first wife Teresa Petrillo (Cristin Milioti) who like us doesn’t understand all of the sales and stock market mumbo-jumbo can see what damage could be done, the potential for harm. Even his second wife Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) begins to see the bigger picture when children are involved.

It’s like DiCaprio has been saying over and over again on the promotions circuit, it is a cautionary tale. Pausing in character to address us, as if to see him reliving the events telling us that he has learnt his lesson, but at the time the lust for money, power, drugs and material possessions drove him to near destruction. It never celebrates any of it, as bright and as colourful as it looks, we can see how the lifestyle cannot be sustained. Something we have seen more recently with the 2008 recession. Gordon Gekko’idea that “Greed is good” is once again questioned, and instead of waiting 20 years for sequel, the consequences are laid out for us.

The Wolf of Wall Street is everything I’ve just been talking about and also extremely funny, with all the f-bombs and other colourful language which is synonymous with a Scorsese film. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course at times you think, less of the language, before thinking, he’s paint an honest as he can picture, with added style and effect. We see a return to form for Marty which he never really lost, it’s the subject matter that dictates the tone which we have not seen since The Departed (2006) which was a master-class in acting for all concerned.

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10 responses

  1. When you have a movie that’s about as disgusting as a subject as Jordan Belfort, it’s hard not to gain even the slightest amount of controversy. However, what I truly do give this movie credit for is the fact that even throughout its three hour run-time, it rarely ever bored me and always found a way to keep me laughing, smiling and impressed with something new happening. Good review Tim.

    January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    • Thanks Dan. Yes it never has you bored, always taking the edge of the subject with drugs, sex or the f-word.

      January 23, 2014 at 3:48 pm

  2. Amazing ! Kermode Review: I was just saying this EXACT same thing to Cindy. I couldn’t count the number of movies I’ve seen recently where I don’t give a rats butt what happens to the central characters or supposed heros. So why would I even finish watching the film? Sometimes I don’t. Especially a 3 hour … thing. Oh sure, I might appreciate the direction, acting, writing … cinematography … whatever. But if I don’t care about the people, in most instances, it’s a bust. American Hustle … same thing. I could name others – that were all critically acclaimed. Sorry, there’s more to a painting than how well you applied the paint.

    Did you know that wolves don’t really attack people?
    Except in movies and on Wall Street.

    January 23, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    • I have only experienced this a few times, such as those in Public Enemies, just didn’t care about them, to the point that if they got gunned down I still wouldn’t care. that said its shows how engaging a film can be, do we have to always like them to stay with the film, the plot maybe enough to sustain us.
      I’ve heard the rumours, not surprised about wall street though.

      January 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm

  3. I don’t think we completely have to like the characters – they can be flawed / anti-heroes, but it has to somehow pull us in. Captain Philips really missed the boat I think by not showing us WHY these guys are pirates. It’s pretty superficial how that’s developed. They were all fisherman before – probably never even owned a gun. But then, if you develop sympathy for the antagonist you lose your villain. I think sometimes the movie that entered the editing room is quite different than the one that emerges. Good thing I’m not in there.

    January 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    • Its about finding the balance between explaining their motives and making you sympathise with them. It was a little but more would have helped in the case of Phillips, which I felt the pirates were pushed into the situation to bring home great sums of money.
      The editing room can make or break a film. Good job the likes of John Ford, shot only what he needed so little was lost in the editing room.

      January 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm

  4. Ain’t that the truth. I hear that some guys shoot so much footage that you could 2 or 3 movies. One thing we are seeing a lot of these days – in these “extended” versions or “Directors Cut” is footage being deliberately held back so that they can use it to sell the DVDs and such. Occasionally though, a Director’s cut is justified and improves the movie – such as with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In the Lord of the RIngs trilogy I found the extended footage developed and explained story better. If I like a movie I always like to see the ‘Extended’ edition …

    January 24, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    • Some do get carried away. I think of Ridley Scott who works his crew hard to get what he wants, he has a vision which I respect, especially with Blade runner. Then you get the Lucas’s who just cant let go, which is sad. It’s true though with the DVD’s holding back, its a gamble which can pay off.

      January 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm

  5. I was thinking about Scott and Bladerunner when I was writing that. Great movie – and I’ve heard Scott’s Director’s Cut is good – though haven’t seen it . A superb piece of film making. One wonders that if it hadn’t been Sci Fi whether it could have been Best Picture.
    I still think Hauer could have been nominated for his role. His acting is under-appreciated. Just look at his Projection in this iconic clip:

    It’s said that he ad libbed part this.

    January 25, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    • That’s the only version I’ve seen of the film, and from the extensive (3 1/2 hour) documentary. An incredible film that combines sci-fi with film noir. That scene is one of my favourites. Be awesome if it had have one, something Sci-fi will never really do, as much as I want Gravity to win, I know its going to be 12 years a slave. Sci-fi has come along way, and thanks in part to Blade Runner.

      January 25, 2014 at 9:35 pm

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