So it’s that time of year again. Oscar Season. When all the Hollywood blockbusters and award sweepers are released. Almost like a second Christmas for fans of cinema and this year clearly did not disappoint if this film alone is anything to go by.
Martin Scorsese gets back in the directors chair for his fifth collaboration with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. This time telling the true story of Jordan Belfort, the Wall Street stockbroker who made his millions through stock fraud. The film follows Belfort from his humble beginnings working for his first firm, creating his own and then slowly his time in the spotlight and high life before the sharp decline of his world after an FBI investigation. However, this film makes it mark and stands apart from the rest of the biopics and blockbusters of recent years through various key areas. First that should be mentioned is that this film goes where few films have been before when displaying what people do when they have more money than they know what to do with. Featuring the main cast brainstorming what they could do for entertainment if they hired a man with dwarfism, taking any and every drug they could get their hands on and more nudity and sex scenes than I think have ever been filmed in mainstream cinema before (mainly due to the film being independently financed rather than by a major studio). The Wolf of Wall Street gives an honest and genuine look and experience into what it is like to have no limits and have everyone eating out of the palm of your hand.
The acting in the film from the entire cast is groundbreaking, with no faults to be found anywhere and especially within the core cast. DiCaprio was personally coached by Jordan Belfort in how to present the most convincing and accurate portrayal of a ruthless wall street psychopath. Displaying various mood swings, most often at his wife and especially in a scene in which they argue after she accuses him of saying another woman’s name in his sleep. He also presents Belfort as an incredibly unstable man whose entire life revolves around money, drugs and his family. In which when one of those three factors is shakey then he becomes very temperamental. However just as impressive in this film is Jonah Hill as Belfort’s second in command, Donnie Azoff. Hill demanded to audition for the role and it became his first role he auditioned for in six years. Yet despite his history playing very different characters such as the high school loser who just wants to get laid before leaving for college Seth in ‘Superbad‘ to the reserved and wickedly smart Peter Brand in ‘Moneyball’, Hill brings an all new level of brilliance to his role as Azoff. Being wildly unpredictable and fiercely loyal, he is shown eating an employee’s pet goldfish shortly before firing him to urinating on a court ordered subpoena. Whilst providing most of the comic relief in the film, you can’t help but think how unbelievably different this character is to his past roles yet still manages to bring his signature charm to the roll. The Wolf of Wall Street also features a whole host of well known names in medium or small roles such as Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, Tropic Thunder) as Belfort’s first boss Mark Hanna, Ethan Suplee (American History X, My Name is Earl) as Toby Welch, one of Belfort’s co-workers from an old job and Joannah Lumley as Naomi Belfort’s aunt Emma. In addition to the three fellow directors Scorsese cast in the film, Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally), Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) and Spike Jonze (Her, Where the Wild Things Are).
The next notable factor of the film that makes it so impressive is the cinematography and editing. Though not overly noticeable perhaps at first, it is very subtle yet very clever in some scenes. For example whenever one or more of the characters are high on whatever drug, the editing becomes slightly disjointed and feature issues with continuity. Whereas whenever they are sober the film flows fine. Different camera lenses were also used in order to display Belfort’s state of mind at various parts in the film such as clear flat lenses were used when he has a clear state of mind but when he loses that the lens turns to anamorphic lenses. All very subtle things but certainly add to the care and thought put in behind the film.
Though as much as I praise this film, it does come with its flaws. Though to understand and squeeze in all of Belfort’s unlawful doings and the following consequences into film it is bound to run long, at a solid three hours it is quite a marathon to watch so perhaps not all scenes were necessary and could just be trimmed slightly. Also despite the nature of the story being a rise and fall, the fall would typically contain some emotional moments but the film is a straight up comedy over drama which perhaps doesn’t sit perfectly in the strictly true to the story folder. But all told, Scorsese knocks another one out the park.
However all summed up…
- Some truly hilarious moments from an entirely fantastic cast
- A solid soundtrack mixing the blues of Elmore James with the New Wave synthpop of Devo and Punk Covers of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
- Very carefully thought out cinematography
- Shows the high life like no film has ever done before it
- Runs pretty lengthy
- Doesn’t really feature anything to balance out the comedy
What did you think? Comment below