365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street is the fifth collaboration between Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) and leading Hollywood man Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Revolutionary Road). With apologies to Gangs of New York, this is arguably their most daring work together. I would rank this as the third best movie the duo has combined for. 2010's Shutter Island is in my all-time top 15. This movie was magnificent in its storytelling and captivating in its ability to draw you in and keep you totally hooked for its duration. In my opinion Shutter Island is Scorsese's best work and, arguably, DiCaprio's too. I know I am in the minority and there are lots of people who laugh at this notion, claiming that Shutter Island doesn't even come close to cracking Scorsese's all-time top five. I would rank The Wolf of Wall Street slightly below the departed and slightly above Gangs of New York. In my opinion, The Aviator is the worst of the bunch. Scorcese has eight Best Director Oscar nominations to his name and one win (2006's The Departed). The Wolf of Wall Street very well could earn him a ninth nomination, but it will not earn him a second win.

***I didn't mean for it to be, but there are lots of semi-spoilers here. If you haven't seen this movie yet, skip down to the paragraph that begins "As far as for awards season"***

The Wolf of Wall Street is based upon the autobiography of Jordan Belfort, a young, up and coming Wall Street stockbroker who lost his job on October 19, 1987 (aka Black Monday), the worst day for the stock market since the stock market crash of 1929. Married to Teresa (Cristin Milioti - television's 30 Rock, television's How I Met Your Mother), Jordan feels the pressure of supporting himself and his wife. With the collapse of the stock market as we knew it, the need for stock brokers was no longer in demand. Jordan skims the help want ads in the New York Times looking for any sort of possible job. He seems content with getting into retail until his wife tells him that he won't be happy doing something other than trading. She points him towards a job at a place called Investment Center which is basically a small office operation that sells penny stocks or stocks that aren't credible enough to be sold on a stock exchange. Instead of getting pennies to the dollar for each trade executed, Jordan is told that he will earn a 50% commission on every trade he makes. While he is essentially selling junk stocks to individuals who place their trust in him, his eyes are filled with nothing but dollar signs.

But he is highly successful and is able to open his own business named Stratton Oakmont. He brings some of his colleagues from Investment Center while also bringing in some of his low level friends. He also meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill - Moneyball21 Jump Street), a neighbor in his building who quits his job as a children's furniture salesman to work for Jordan. The two form an instant friendship although Donnie introduces Jordan to a new world of heavy drugs. The two, especially Jordan, become obsessed with cash, doing whatever they could to achieve their dreams of getting rich. Whether that meant skimming off the top, launching an illegal IPO for the company of Donnie's childhood friend, or attempting to pay off those people who could hurt them the most, Jordan and Donnie were willing to do it all.

Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie - About Time) was Jordan's Kryptonite. As his second wife, he was madly in love with her and putty to her hands. This beautiful woman was everything Jordan wanted in a wife, but not enough to curb his exorbitant  lifestyle. When what she wants contradicts the life he is leading that he doesn't know how to break away from, that's when the fireworks occur. The obsession with money, drugs, and sex (in that order) rule his life and when Noami reaches the point where that lifestyle is not only not what she wants in a husband, but is completely unacceptable with her, Jordan does with her what he tries to do with everything else in his life. He tries to control it first and, when that doesn't work, he tries to escape from it. He's out of control and it's just a matter of time before everything catches up with him, including that of FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler - television's Friday Night Lights) who is obsessed with holding Jordan responsible for his illegal practices and Jordan is with continuing them. The two only have a few scenes together, but they are dynamite.

This Scorsese/DiCaprio collaboration was most similar to Gangs of New York. When this combination comes at you, they don't come softly. DiCaprio's Jordan was the narrator of this story. Scorsese used the technique where DiCaprio would tell some background information about the story while still also acting. I thought it was well done. And he did this evenly over the three hour film (which never really felt that long). Scorsese forced the party lifestyle down our throats, but I thought it was perfect. Just when you think he couldn't go any further with the drug use, the wild sex scenes, the mild violence, or just the flat out weirdness, he did. When there was an disagreement between two characters, it wasn't just a gentle argument, it was more like a mini war. While seeing Jordan so out of control with his vices, you would often shake your head while thinking that this character is way too flamboyant and grandiose. But this story actually happened! While watching The Wolf of Wall Street, I sort of thought it was a mixture of Wall Street, The Great Gatsby, and Rock Star all combined into one. We see a man rise to fame through hard work, have the inability to control his wild lifestyle, see his life spiral out of control without the resources to do anything about it, and then be humbled at the end.

This movie isn't for everybody, but it's for a lot of people. Scorsese fans should check it out. I do think there is a certain percentage of the population who would be a bit offended by some of the many overtures in this movie. As I mentioned, this movie doesn't hold back. There is nothing subtle. It's all in your face. You are watching a train wreck occur right on stage, yet you can't turn away. Jordan is obsessed with greed, lust, drugs, and exorbitance in all aspects of his life. It's hard to tell if you are rooting for him or rooting against him. Is he our protagonist or our antagonist. He's taking money from hundreds of thousands of Americans without thinking twice about it. He cheats on his wife. He hurts his wife in other ways. He does drugs and then puts himself in situations where he could hurt himself and hurt others. Yet there is a certain charisma about him that makes you kind of like him. In this regard, I think both Scorsese and DiCaprio were successful.

As far as for awards season, I'd say Scorsese is the surest thing for a lock. I think DiCaprio probably gets shut out. As I write these reviews I realize that I have four performances for Best Actor and I'm just assuming Bruce Dern (Nebraska) is the fifth. It's probably time I finally saw this movie. I would personally love for DiCaprio to get a nomination. While he has three nominations to his name, he should have about five or six by now. He doesn't get the love from the Academy like he should. I think Hill should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor too. He was dynamite. This is his finest performance to date.

I was a big fan of this movie. I'd check it out. I thought it was MUCH better than the highly overrated American Hustle.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 9.5
Character Chemistry 9.5 (great cast, DiCaprio and Hill were awesome together)
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing  9/10
Cinematography 9.5/10
Sound 9/10 (lots of songs from the time frame of the movie)
Hook and Reel 10/10 (I was drawn in early and the 3 hours never felt long to me)
Universal Relevance 9.5/10

Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Ok, just wanted to leave a comment. Great reviews, great site! Agree with all, dicaprio shines in this role. Why was American hustle so highly thought of? I didn’t get it

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.