17 December 2013 | ClaytonDavis
The Wolf of Wall Street is Leonardo DiCaprio's Crowning Work
Martin Scorsese has done it again. His newest and most refreshing effort he's contributed to the world of cinema in years, The Wolf of Wall Street is a roaring thrill ride that is both absolutely hilarious and meticulously constructed. It also presents Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio in possibly his finest acting performance of his career. At one-minute shy of three hours, I was both engaged and hypnotized nearly the entire duration. A comedic epic that studies the behavior and cultures of a time in America, feels like the uncovering of a time capsule that was buried and dug up to give insight into our current financial crisis. Much more than just laughs, it turns on the dramatic elements early enough in the film to warrant considerable reactions about the choices of our key characters. Expertly paced with intelligent moral questions presented, The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best films of the year.
Telling the story of Jordan Belfort, a young Wall Street broker that gets involved in drugs, money, and even more drugs during the 80's and 90's. In his tenure trading (and stealing), Jordan marries, divorces, does drugs, marries again, does even more drugs, makes solid friendships, and believe it or not, does a lot more drugs. Watching the destruction of Jordan acted as a documentarian's insight that felt like I was watching "Intervention" without the family that cares. The Wolf of Wall Street is a black comedy, giving hints of drama. Natural comparisons will fly to Oliver Stone's Wall Street which is accurate but you can see subtle hints of films like Trading Places, Glengarry Glen Ross, and even American Psycho. That's a testament to Scorsese's outstanding direction and Terence Winter's masterful screenplay. Scorsese keeps Wolf life-size, sprinkled with characters that are both geniuses and morons, but functioning morons. They're like the frat pack group that sat in a corner on my college campus, being loud and obnoxious, and made terrible life choices that they still aren't aware of until this day. Scorsese puts together an all-star cast to inhabit these beings that includes DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernathal, and Kyle Chandler. All of which seem to be having the time of their lives.
A lot of the credit of the film's overall success has to be awarded to Leonardo DiCaprio. I've never seen him truly "go for it" in a way that he exhibits as Jordan Belfort. In his breaking of the fourth wall, to his long but completely engaging monologues about life, money, and greed, it's the most assured and compelling work by the actor to date. When DiCaprio unleashed his talents in the mid-90's in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and later stole the hearts of tween girls everywhere in Titanic, who knew this is the role he'd been gearing up to play. This is the role of his career and something that the Academy Awards should look to for his long overdue recognition. It's a charming and adventurous turn that presents a conundrum to the audience as we find ourselves both enamored and loathing the pure essence of Jordan. A sequence of DiCaprio crawling on the floor will probably be the scene of the year. This is DiCaprio's crowning achievement.
As the magnetic and cheesy-minded right-hand man, Jonah Hill's performance as Donnie Azoff is another great turn for the 30-year-old actor. He's allowed to explore some of his comedic ticks and beats that he may not have ever had the opportunity to explore in films like Superbad or 21 Jump Street. In Wolf, he relies on his own instincts, and his chemistry with DiCaprio, which has helped him before for his Oscar-nominated work in Moneyball opposite Brad Pitt. Matthew McConaughey, is one scene shy of winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. While his work in Dallas Buyers Club will bring him the acclaim and recognition that he deserves, The Wolf of Wall Street is a prime example of what he should be doing when he's not working or seeking out the strong, independent features that are geared for awards recognition. Stealing every frame and focus from DiCaprio in his ten minute screen time, McConaughey utilizes all his charm and spunk as Mark Hanna, the mentor to young Jordan as he started out.
Like any great Scorsese film, the women are in full-force and given the opportunity to shine like the others. Cristin Millotti, a toned down and tragic version of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, is sensational in her brief appearances on screen. Beautiful and sympathetic, she offers much needed serious and dramatic elements to Jordan's outrageous antics. In the end, a star is born in the gorgeous and vivacious Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia, Jordan's second wife. Whoever was going to be cast as Naomi, had to be an actress of considerable talent and had the ability to really be the sexy kitten but still warrant an emotional reaction from the audience when called upon. Margot Robbie was the perfect choice and she'll need to owe Scorsese royalties for years to come with the roles she'll be offered following this. Robbie is pure magic and is everything she's required to be. She's the more elusive, compelling, and more thought out version of Scarlett Johansson's character in Don Jon.
I loved every second of The Wolf of Wall Street. Terence Winter's script is a natural and well-oiled machine that produces the words of a demigod. You couldn't make these things up. Thelma Schoonmaker is the utmost professional and continues to shine film after film. You won't find another dedicated and glossed editing work this year. The other supporting actors do sensational work especially Kyle Chandler, who has a very well-constructed exchange on a boat with DiCaprio, has us asking more and more, why is this guy not helming his own films on a consistent basis yet?