By merely 60 seconds, Martin Scorsese has made his longest feature film at the spry age of 71. Clocking in at 185 minutes, "The Wolf of Wall Street" could very well go down as Mr. Scorsese's most enjoyable film to date.
This is no easy feat either. Mr. Scorsese is the director of such masterpieces as "Raging Bull," "Mean Streets," "Goodfellas," "The Aviator" and "The Departed," the last of which won him a Best Director Oscar. Never shy of controversy, a prime example being "The Last Temptation of Christ," his new film takes on not only the corruptness of the individual as well as its society, but the censorship the film itself passed through to get a hard R rating and not an NC-17.
Following the story of Jordan Belfort, played with comical precision and heartbreaking depth by Leonardo DiCaprio, a New York stockbroker who becomes involved in securities fraud and stock manipulation on Wall Street, the film plays out in an almost MTV/documentary style with Belfort, at times, addressing the camera. Reminiscent of his telling of Henry Hill's story in Goodfellas, Scorsese uses quick cuts to bring us into the high paced world of Belfort, where too much money is still never enough.
Scorsese does what few directors are able to do. He makes a three hour long film (originally 4.5 hours) completely engrossing that it's nearly impossible to look away. When the credits roll, part of you wants to sit there and wait for the movie to start up again, just to enjoy the ride again.
As opposed to other Scorsese films that have dealt with similar themes, in TWOWS, new ground is constantly broken. Margot Robbie, who plays Jordan's wife Naomi, is credited with the most on screen nudity in the picture. Naomi is described in the official shooting script by Terrence Winter as "24, blonde and gorgeous, a living wet dream in LaPerla lingerie." The elegance in the film is that this is how we see Naomi at the start, as a sort of mob wife. For awhile, we don't see too much of her besides glimpses of her holding her pregnant stomach in background shots. Then, when Jordan's life begins to unravel, we glimpse that Naomi may have been the only saving grace in Jordan's life, if only he had realized it sooner.
For as much sex and nudity that the movie contains, and there's quite a lot, the high life that the characters lead are mostly exposed through the usage of drugs: mostly crack, coke and ludes. While at times this could be looked at as a stance against addiction, Scorsese adds something to it. Keep your eyes open for an amazing juxtaposition involving Leonardo DiCaprio and Popeye. Yes, Popeye the cartoon character.
Jonah Hill, playing Donnie Azoff, provides the most comedic charm of the picture and rightly so. He shines everytime he appears and, at times, there's a wish this could be a drugged out sex comedy with Leo and Jonah because of their unabashed chemistry. Yet, over the years, Mr. Hill has become settled in his dramatic acting technique, mostly notably in "Moneyball" with Brad Pitt. His improvisations with Leo and a memorable scene with Rob Reiner, playing DiCaprio's father, are worthy of admission to the picture alone.
Yet, with everything happening at once, a dynamic story, beautiful imagery, a stellar cast that mixes comedy and drama perfectly, it comes down to being a Scorsese film. This is no more evident than in the final 60 seconds of the film. If it's hard to find a message, if it's difficult to understand why someone would make a film about the life of someone who benefitted from the fall of others, look at the final shot of the film and Scorsese tells it all. No words necessary.
Though the film takes place in the 90s, since our current economic downfall, the movie resonates. Deep within every shot, every piece of dialogue, we become more and more repulsed. Yet, as audience members, we laugh. We laugh at how obscene it is to do the vast amount of drugs they do, to cheat on your wife, to find people to secure your money that you've stolen from other people. But why do we laugh? Do we laugh because we know it's crazy and wrong? Or because a part of us wonders how it must feel to be able to do that? To have that money, to do those drugs, to have that sex, to have that freedom? Is Scorsese saying that there's a part in each of us that wants to live the unexamined high life? That people like Belfort and Azoff are people we hate on the outside but are jealous of on the inside? Or is it a message of how little our world has evolved in 20 years?
Either way, Scorsese entertains us and makes us think and that's all you can ask for in a masterpiece.
The Wolf Of Wall Street is currently playing in theaters.