Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

Saying "The Wolf of Wall Street" isn't a roller coaster, would be like saying that the sun isn't hot or penguins don't waddle. This film is a joyride, a cinematic explosion of comedy, drama and storytelling. The narrative of Leonardo DiCaprio never winning an Oscar may be over. Martin Scorsese proves that he most certainly still has it. While outta nowhere Jonah Hill has become more than just a comedic actor. Based on a true story, "The Wolf of Wall Street" isn't just a film about making money, it's a film that takes making money to an absolute extreme.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is based off of the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). In 1987, Belfort is working as a stockbroker at a firm on Wall Street. His boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) tells him to develop a life based around sex and cocaine to succeed. Not long after, the firm fails on a Black Monday. Belfort is forced to find a join in a boiler room selling penny stocks, as advised by his wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti). Basically what he was already doing, but for a significantly less amount of money. His aggressive nature, combined with the commissions on the stock, soon net him a small fortune. One day at a diner, Belfort meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a salesmen who lives in the same complex has him, who compliments him on his car and then asks to work with him. They bring in Donnie's accountant parents and some of Jordan's friends, drug dealers, and Stratton Oakmont is born. Despite the official sounding name, the company is a pump and dumb scam. It's fraud which is essentially talking up the price of a stock to sell, despite it being worth very little. Jordan Belfort is dubbed "The Wolf of Wall Street" by an article in Forbes as and soon after, every young financier begins to hop aboard. The men soon begin to live a lavish lifestyle filled with sex, drugs and an addiction Quaaludes. Due to the nature of his moneymaking, FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins to investigate them. Also, Belfort begins to have an affair with a woman he met at one of his parties, Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie), which leads to his divorce. This leads to Belfort marrying Naomi and having a child, all while the FBI is really ramping up the investigation into what is really happening at Stratton Oakmont.

I'll start with what everyone is thinking, yes the three hour run-time. Sure, three hours sounds long until you actually start watching this film. Like every other long movie that is well made, you get into the story quickly. The adaptation from the the book is done well. Not saying that I've ever read the book, or even plan to, but what came across the screen, both story and character-wise, was good. The characters are endearing, and somewhat relatable, so you really do feel for Belfort when he loses his first big gig. Even when things aren't going great, or you feel like everyone is turning into a money grubbing drug addict, you're sucked in with the humor this movie is loaded with. There's a ten or so minute scene in this film that was without a doubt one of the funniest comedic scenes of 2013. On the flip side the drama in this film is great too. The dynamic between Belfort and his crew causes tension in so many areas, it's easy to play it all out on the screen. Plus, the overall drama of the FBI investigating, is always lingering around and makes for great conflict. You don't just see the money flowing either, at times you're taught what is going on. Most of the time you're right in the thick of them making, hiding, spending and wasting money on everything under the sun. This movie is three hours, and sure there are a few draggy points in the film, but the runtime isn't a reason to knock this film or not watch it.

The acting may be the best area this film as to offer. The whole crew, even the ones with smaller roles are exceptional.  Leonardo DiCaprio has always been an actor I've liked. This role continues in a tradition of great ones for him and has even got him nominated for Best Actor. Which is well-deserved as he plays Jordan Belfort to a tee. The charisma, the smarts, the mannerisms, Leo takes this man and turns him into an on-screen character that's awesome to watch. Leo might be finally getting a Oscar for his work, and in this one, it would more than well deserved. Then we go over to his main supporting man, Jonah Hill. In the past couple of years, Jonah's widened his range from just being a comedic actor. He earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in "Moneyball" and has secured another one for his role in this. Donnie Azoff is Belforts right hand guy. Always there though the good and bad. While Hill always seems to bring it in the humorous scenes, he's still more than great in the drama aspect of everything as well. Let's not leave out names here though as the rest of the supporting cast is great. In a limited role, Matthew McConaughey sets the tone for the film and Belfort's whole life ahead. I can't say enough about his acting this past year. Margot Robbie as Belfort's second wife is another good role. From the start you know she's with him solely for his money, but she gives Belfort's character some emotions. Most of which you don't get to see a lot of when he's out getting obliterated. Belfort's crew is led by Jon Bernthal, of "The Walking Dead Fame", who does a great job being a role player in this film. Another good role player was Kyle Chandler as FBI Agent Patrick Denham. Sure it was a pretty standard character, but an important one once the plot of this film gets rolling. None of this would've been possible without the writing from Terrance Winter and the direction of Martin Scorsese. Winter made a great adaptation of the book, while Scorsese brought it to life beautifully on screen. This was a great one-two punch, showing that Scorsese does in fact still have chops.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is still not for the faint of heart. As I already mentioned, this film is three hours. Add in the fact that it's full of nudity, gratuitous sex, a plethora of drug use and even uses the F-bomb 569 times. That is actually a record for amount of times used in a film. Nonetheless this is a film with a great story and great acting, led by DiCaprio and Hill. Plus you have Scorsese directing, so what's not to be excited about? "The Wolf of Wall Street" is one of the best, and raunchiest, black comedies you'll ever see.

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