Film Assessment: DiCaprio Stars in Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

December 25th, 2013

Mary Cybulski/Paramount Images

Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Foreseeable future archaeologists, digging via the electronic and physical rubble of our extended-long gone civilization in search of reasons for its collapse, will be significantly helped if they unearth a file that contains “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s a few-hour bacchanal of sex, medications and conspicuous consumption. Then as now, the film is probably to be the subject matter of intense scholarly discussion: Does it offer you a sustained and persuasive prognosis of the terminal pathology that afflicts us, or is it an specifically florid symptom of the ailment?

From its opening sequence — a rapid, nasty, unapologetic tour through its major character’s vices and compulsions, in the course of which he crash-lands a helicopter on the grounds of his Extended Island estate and (not simultaneously) shares cocaine with a contact woman in an anatomically innovative manner — to its uncooked, chaotic complete, “The Wolf of Wall Street” hums with vulgar, voyeuristic energy. It has been a even though given that Mr. Scorsese has thrown himself into filmmaking with this kind of exuberance. “Goodfellas,” a sprawling inquiry into how some gentlemen do organization, is an apparent precedent, and so is “Mean Streets,” an intense review of how some gentlemen get into problems. Even the occasional lapses of filmmaking approach (scenes that drag on as well lengthy, pictures that really don’t match, visible continuity glitches) really feel like signs of lifestyle. This motion picture could tire you out with its hammering, swaggering extra, but it is never considerably less than broad-awake.

At the heart of the whirlwind is Jordan Belfort, a crooked inventory trader played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has lately grow to be the handsome cinematic experience of excessive capitalism. “The Fantastic Gatsby” (this year’s other significant motion image about a wealthy criminal with a mansion on Extended Island) gave Mr. DiCaprio a opportunity to check out the passionate aspect of prosperity. Enjoying a plantation operator in “Django Unchained,” he savored the sulfurous corruption of an older ruling class. As Jordan (a real particular person whose memoir is the supply of Terence Winter’s screenplay), he achieves a kind of superhuman shallowness. Jordan is forthright about the ecstasies of money — the pills, women, autos and other toys it enables him to acquire, and previously mentioned all the pure dopamine hurry of buying a lot more — and indifferent to everything else. Gordon Gekko, the lizard of “Wall Road,” proclaimed that greed is great. That sentiment is far as well lofty for Jordan. What issues to him is that greed is enjoyable.

Mr. Belfort’s e-book is much more boast than confession, and Mr. Winter season (whose television credits include “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire”) declines to take care of his rise and drop as a fable of redemption. As portrayed in the movie, Jordan Belfort is a totally despicable human being, but one whose attraction — the ineradicable trace of melancholy furrowing Mr. DiCaprio’s brow, the nonetheless-boyish openness of his smile — can make actively despising him virtually extremely hard.

Following conference Jordan at his saturnalian peak, we flash back again to his beginnings as an keen novice at a respected company, exactly where he is introduced to the mysteries and pleasures of the trade by a gleefully Mephistophelean Matthew McConaughey. This is much less a drop from grace than a rite of passage, and after the crash of 1987 flushes Jordan out of the real Wall Street, he finds a way to recreate its worst and most attractive factors. Getting inspiration from a storefront penny-stock outfit, he conjures up a large-profile organization with the fake blue-blood title of Stratton Oakmont.

As my colleague Joe Nocera has recently pointed out, the misdeeds of Stratton Oakmont — a reasonably easy pump-and-dump scam developed on the briefly inflated worth of frequently worthless shares — have small in typical with the elaborate, as however primarily unpunished, schemes that wrecked the economic climate a decade following Jordan Belfort’s downfall. The sums that Jordan and his pals rake in may be enormous, and their approaches unsavory, but they are tiny-timers operating on the fringes of genuine energy and attracting the focus of law enforcement (embodied by Kyle Chandler, actively playing a meager hand as nicely as he can). The big fish, still swimming freely, can be identified in “Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson’s impressive, indignant documentary on the origins of the economic crises, or in J. C. Chandor’s “Margin Phone.”

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