The Wolf of Wall Street Review by Danny Holt

Here is our first ever guest blog written by independent film maker Danny Holt, currently working on ‘Isolation’ and other projects. He is a good friend of ours and has offered to do this blog for us, we hope you enjoy it! *MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*

“Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.”

 Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio invite us to sit back and enjoy three hours of comedy, partying and ridiculous amounts of excess.

 The Wolf of Wall Street opens with Jordan Belfort, brilliantly portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, excitedly telling us that making money feels like ‘mainlining adrenaline’. Then for the next three hours Scorsese shows us how making this film had him feeling like he was mainlining adrenaline. It’s incredible how a man aged 71 years old could create a modern comedy filled with this much sex, drugs and outright insanity, but then again I am talking about the director who brought us Goodfellas where Henry Hill’s story of crime, greed and drugs acts like a mirror to the alternate white collar world that Belfort inhabits Take for example the similar narration that both lead characters tell us our story through and how the only thing that they both seem to be truly sorry about is the fact that they got caught. The throwbacks to Scorsese’s previous works are often but considering how endless amounts of directors have taken from him we can surely allow the man himself to borrow from a back catalogue brimming with the darkest parts of the human soul.

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 I compared the film to a modern comedy earlier which was extremely unfair because this is so much funnier than that, I mean, could you imagine going to see a three hour long Seth Rogen or Will Ferrell film that kept you entertained and laughing at least every five minutes?   One of the reasons for this remarkable feat, other than Terence Winters extremely witty screenplay, is the perfect casting of Jonah Hill. Hill is one of the biggest names in comedy and as he continues to surprise us with his work in dramas over the past couple of years I suspect that his influence over the entire process, as Belforts partner in crime Donnie Azoff, is what sparked the great improvised scenes and even possibly what caused Dicaprio to up his game in the comedy stakes.

Leonardo Dicaprio is not an actor that you would usually associate with the word ‘Comedy’ yet in this he gives what I think is one of the greatest comedy performances ever to be put up on the big screen. While Jonah Hill delivers terrific quick fire lines and hilarious put downs Dicaprio does so much more with his character. Every facial expression, every line and every single thing that he does in this film is perfectly worked on and executed to such a high standard that it’s impossible to not see this as his greatest role yet. It sounds bad because Belfort is such an unlikeable, greedy and detestable human being but Dicaprio was born to play this role and unfortunately I don’t know if he will ever top it.

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His recent success as a comedy actor at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards are justified if only just for one sequence where a Quaaludes intoxicated Belfort becomes paralysed and has to crawl to his car, then drive home prompting an A star physical comedy performance that even Buster Keaton would have to stand back and be in awe of.

Margot Robbie does well against such strong performances from her fellow actors and a special mention has to be given for cameos from Matthew Mconaughey, Spike Jonze and Rob Reiner whose few scenes really stick in the mind.

The film has received a lot of criticism for not portraying any real consequences or punishment for it’s character’s actions and even glorifying what they did. The film is just showing us what happened through Jordan’s eyes, what’s so hard to understand about that? We see every indulgence that he has admitted to and in real life there were no consequences for his actions. He did a small amount of time in prison and has to slowly pay a debt to his victims just like the film tells us. Maybe instead of pointing fingers at the film and its honesty we should be looking at ourselves and how our society lets these types of people get away with this time and time again. Scorsese and Winters final haunting lingering shot shows us that. We were also punished as an audience for enjoying such a terrible man’s behaviour when he shows his true colours and turns on his wife in a violent rage. This is in stark contrast to an earlier argument scene between the two of them that has you in stitches. It’s a “tut tut’” from the film for laughing.

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The three hour long length wasn’t a problem for me as the film whizzed by without a single glance at my watch or uncomfortable feeling in my seat but I understand it could be a problem for some. However, in a film all about self-indulgence and excess doesn’t a ridiculously long running time seem to fit?

The editing by Scorsese and long time collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker is where his direction really comes into play as they make it into an anarchic mess that somehow seems to flow narratively throughout. Scorsese does seem slightly reigned in stylistically with lack of the usual great iconic shots we see from his classic films but I suspect, like all great auteurs, he knew that this film wasn’t about him but it was a film that had to be led by the performances – and what a great central one it got.

A funny, smart classic that will get better with many repeated viewings. Scorsese’s greatest achievement here is the stunning performances he gets from his cast.

5/5

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