Saturday, January 11, 2014

"The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013) - Movie Review

The hedonism of “The Wolf of Wall Street” becomes overwhelming within ten minutes of the film. For me it did not feel like a cautionary tale nor was it the glorification of the lifestyle that was operated by Jordan Belfort. Jordan Belfort, who was a stockbroker in the late 80s who ran his own empire, minted money, spent it on things that can be only seen to be believed. He snorts cocaine, pops pills, drinks gallons of alcohol, engages in consistent sexual encounters and combines all of it together, puts them in jar, shakes it up and drinks it up for breakfast. Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio portrays the sex and drug marathon in close and explicit detail by this man when he looted, cheated, robbed the people’s money with no regrets and smoked it out in thin air for the pleasure that knew no bounds.

There have been notable enough films and the real life debacle of Wall Street that has explained us the nature of this crooked business. This Wall Street world is run by people mainly spitting testosterone as they speak and that includes women as well. The crimes that goes unpunished and the day to day working class and middle class people suffering in their hands has become a trend. There are no blood in the hands directly on these suited and well dressed money mongers. They simply are smarter than the people they deceive to steal the money and make it their own. This has been done stylishly in “The Wall Street” and with flair and reality in the less known but highly effective “Boiler Room”. “The Wolf of Wall Street” does not go for moral lesson. It knows people are educated by it and goes on into the life that created out of it.

Jordan Belfort as the young man with ambition and drive wants to be a millionaire. That is the initial goal and that is mentioned once or twice earlier in the movie. After that there are no goals or ambitions. With the proper words of wisdom by Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) his first boss in the Wall Street, he shoots for the stars while taking drugs, masturbating and having sex. His second man is Donny played by Jonah Hill is weird enough for his own good to question how Belfort drives a Jaguar and lives in the same building as him. As Jordan explains his last month’s earning of 72K, the choice seems obvious for Donny. “Everybody wants to be rich” says Jordan when he hires his friend and who does not like money? How much and how one manages defines them but that is the driving idea for his sleazy success.

The movie becomes the comedy it intends to be. And to be entertained by it, the victims are not shown. I believe even the film subconsciously or consciously portrays the attitude of the stockbroker who robs in the day through the telephone. For them, the other end of the line is a challenge to make the poor person a chump. It becomes a power game and the satisfaction of deceiving them makes them something better. Written by Terence Winter who has adapted it from the book of same name by Jordan Belfort, it is a display of depravity, debauchery and revelries our simple minds cannot even fathom.

Jordan comes as a god to the employees of his firm. He motivates them with pure passion and spits through every word as he wants them to know the energy spent on saying those marks the importance of it. The brunette middle class wife (Cristin Milioti) he came along to New York has been replaced by blonde bomb shell Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie). If there is one better thing Jordan Belfort can do other than selling penny stocks and making money then that would be spending money. Now, one would not characterize them as the right thing to spend money but he spends it like there will be no tomorrow and there is no limit.

Leonardo DiCaprio surrenders to this character. He appears to have loaned his body, mind, spirit and soul to go into this universe of sex, drugs and other things that would be banned in Earth and remaining planets. As the film begins to show the rise of his empire, DiCaprio is DiCaprio and the show has been played many times before. When the life he begins to lead become limitless in resource and constraints, that is the point he transforms to this person who has absolute no inhibitions whatsoever. He commits  to the film and this role beyond belief. Along with Jonah Hill who is becoming a terrific supporting actor, the scene where he is drugged beyond the depth of the blackhole and has to get home which is a mile away in his Ferrari is the part that would be talked about for several decades to come.

What does Martin Scorsese intended out of this film? While there are scenarios that are in the shoulders of a director to be responsible in guiding his audience the just way, there are directors who treat their audience as adults to see the film outside of the screen. The film acts as an entertainer and it entertains for sure. The victims of the scam Jordan ran might not be entertained as the initial sequences wherein he sells the penny stock using the script he has taught his newly hired talent humiliates the victim. The film’s last act which is where the law comes to collect its due is even ridiculed on the extent of the punishment not fitting on the extensiveness of the crime. This is the modern day “Scarface” without guns. There is no tragedy and there is no part in the film where Scorsese makes you feel sympathetic towards this man. He merely observes and depicts what we as people are capable when given the resources are endless and how the society and the world aids it for any price.

As much as I admired, enjoyed and appreciated the film, there is a void in it. Maybe I was expecting more explanation on the reasons behind Belfort’s motivation to this pleasure and chaos. There are numerous characters in this film that are not mentioned in this review which carry so much credit for the job. There are crucial key scenes which is a true pleasure to watch on the screenplay and the spell of the actors are upon us. One such is Kyle Chandler’s Agent Patrick Denham being invited into the yacht of Jordan. The scene is laid out in fashion that we are wondering whether Agent Patrick will be bought or not by Jordan. Then there is the tension of whether Jordan is going to act stupid and give in unnecessary information to implicate. In between is the comedy that is buttered tastefully. In this amalgamation comes Martin Scorsese’s able hand to guide this film that shows the abysmal world of morality and human capability in pushing the envelope on encompassing themselves in the seas of pleasure without guilt and remorse. 

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