The new year started off with Scorsese and DiCaprio’s fifth movie collaboration, The Wolf of Wall Street. I entered the movie theater with high expectations blowing the roof off. The two started in 2002 with Gangs of New York. Since then, Scorsese and DiCaprio have worked on The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), and Shutter Island (2010). Finally this year, they present us The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), a story about wealth, individualism, and greed. I knew I would not be disappointed.
The movie opens with a narration by a young stockbroker from New York, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) about his lavish and materialistic way of living and the story starts to flow from there. The movie, based on Belfort’s personal memoir of the same name, is an American satire exposing his degenerate life.
After the stock crash of 1987 known as ”Black Monday,” Belfort decides to open his own firm with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and some of his closest friends. They name the firm Stratton Oakmont and soon become a highly successful company known throughout Wall Street. The film follows Belfort’s wild life, committing fraud, swallowing and snorting all kinds of drugs, and sleeping with a lot of hookers. The narrative demonstrates a radical shift in Belfort’s life from a regular working class man trying to find a decent job to pay his bills to a money-sex-drug addicted maniac who screws people over only for his personal well-being.
Scorsese delivers us an important movie representing the dark and corrupt side of American culture. It depicts the evil side of human nature when it comes to money and power. The movie raises two important questions: how far will a man go for the sake of money and how much will a man sacrifice? We see Belfort’s personal life is sacrificed to his ambitions. When Belfort’s second wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) says she wants a divorce, Belfort slaps her, cuts into the couch cushions for a hidden a bag of cocaine, and while escaping the house, drives himself and his eldest daughter into a tree. Scorsese’s film is the perfect example of a man who goes too far to fulfill his dream of becoming a successful man. With no personal limits set, Belfort ultimately falls and ends up serving 22 months in federal prison
DiCaprio’s acting is jaw-dropping. He demonstrates a side to his acting we have not seen before: the crazy character. We see him dancing, being absolutely hilarious in cruel ways, being sarcastic, witty, and dirty, and acting completely insane. His facial expressions demonstrate tremendous range. As he delivers his speeches to Stratton Oakmont, Belfort resembles an angry wolf. His gesture, face and voice are powerfully convincing and make us want to make money, to work as hard as we can in order to become the richest, and to make Belfort the richest.
Jonah Hill is also impressive. Hill stands out in many scenes alongside DiCaprio. In one, they are both completely drugged out of their minds and become almost paralyzed. Hill proves to us he has a lot to offer as an actor by putting his improvisation skills on the table and spicing up the dialogues with a bit of his humour.
Overall, the acting, cinematography and well-adapted script help shape a movie worth of our attention. After all these years, Scorsese proves to us that he still has it, not that we ever doubted him for a second. Let’s hope the collaboration between DiCaprio and Scorsese continues to grow so we can continue to have vigorous movies like this in the future.
If you liked the Wolf of Wall Street, you might also like:
Boiler Room (2000), dir. Ben Younger, starring Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt. Need help understanding the business of stocks? A college dropout played by Ribisi decides to become a stockbroker to make the quick and easy buck. However, the job might not be as safe as it sounds. Similarly to The Wolf, the main character does not know about the illegal actions going on in his firm.
GoodFellas (1990), dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci. GoodFellas has an important place in American cinema history and is frequently compared to The Godfather (1972). Henry Hill (Liotta) becomes involved with the mob from a young age. GoodFellas is the best choice if you want to become familiar with Scorsese’s work. You can familiarize yourself with the cinematic techniques he often uses, how he works with the narrative of a story, the importance of music in film, and the similar themes he addresses through his movies.
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