The Wolf of Wall Street3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Welcome back to the world of Martin Scorsese. I’m not talking about anything we’ve seen recently. Go way back behind “Hugo,” “Shutter Island,” “The Departed,” “The Aviator,” “Gangs of New York,” “Bringing Out the Dead,” and “Kundun.” We haven’t seen this stirring side of the director since “Casino” (1995). We are talking about films that captivate us and force us to really sympathize with the deplorables. “The Wolf of Wall Street” presents perhaps the most pitiable protagonist Scorsese has ever had. This man is addicted to Quaaludes, cocaine, sex and money. To him, everything is a party, and the only thing that can disrupt that party is tragedy. And overall, I think he has realized what an experience he has made of his life. The angry cop of a director behind this film hits us with exactly the same stuff. For a while here, everything is a wild, outrageously fun party. There’s tragedy at the end, but my only overarching thought is neither “that was funny” nor “that was kind of sad.” What I’m thinking right now is, “What a movie that was.“
The protagonist is perfectly portrayed. Leonardo DiCaprio marks his sixth starring role in a biopic here, but forget Jim Carroll, J. Edgar Hoover and every character in between. DiCaprio’s performance as Jordan Belfort is effortlessly convincing, as this is the anti-hero he’s always wanted to play. We are completely sold on this story and his fascinating character. We’re convinced DiCaprio plays – no, plays – this average guy who made his way to Wall Street and 22 months in prison instead of 20 years because of two things: his ability to manipulate his words and his natural, cunning son-of-a-bitch personality.
He is stupendously integrated into the script. This was written by Terence Winter (TV’s Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos), based on the book by Belfort himself. The writer is a TV alum, has rarely worked in cinema, has never worked with a director as towering as Scorsese, and yet he writes it all so freely, so naturally. I don’t care how accurate the story really is. All I care about is that I enjoyed it, and that after all three hours (a new record for the director) had flown by before my eyes, I wanted more from this character. He makes Gordon Gekko seem boring as hell. He takes a job as obviously torturous as stock trading and gives it away openly; for a while here, the job actually looks like fun.
But that’s just the story. I haven’t even mentioned the style yet. Martin Scorsese’s irresistible techniques lie in one name. Thelma Schoonmaker, the editor of every Scorsese film since “Raging Bull” (1980), who seems to improve markedly with age. I can’t put into words how much more fantastic “The Wolf of Wall Street” is with her input. And then there’s the soundtrack, which is aural dynamite. Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy” and Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” A punk rock cover of “Mrs. Robinson” ends the film. And it seems that every lyric fits. Look around, Mr. Belfort, and all you see are pitying eyes.