The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Unabashed performances, near impeccable direction and a memorable script combine to make The Wolf of Wall Street one of 2013’s best movies.
  • This film has two stars. The first? Director Martin Scorcese, who reminds us that he’s a filmmaking genius. By employing a camera that never stops moving when the script necessitates high energy, but stays perfectly still in more introspective moments, Scorcese constantly sets and changes tone however on-screen events demand.
  • His musical choices do the same. He is wise enough to silence his soundtrack during the most thematically poignant moments but to call attention to it in the most plot-crucial scenes, sometimes using brief snippets from multiple songs in a single sequence.
  • He and his editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, do the same in cutting the movie. When the film is at its most origastic, cuts come rapidly, but when it is quieter, shots and takes are extended.
  • In other words, like Thomas Vinterberg of The Hunt and Alphonso Cuaron of Gravity, Martin Scorcese masterfully calibrates every element of his film to produce a cohesive whole.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street’s other star? Leonardo DiCaprio (Jordan Belfort). In a masterful performance, DiCaprio captures high-energy desperation with equal parts emotion and physicality. He might not be the year’s best male lead, but he’s not far from it.
  • Jonah Hill (Donnie Azoff) and Margot Robbie (Naomi Lapalgia) highlight an impressive supporting cast. Both could receive award recognition for their complex portrayals of flawed people.
  • The rest of the cast is strong, as well.
  • Terrence Winter’s screenplay is equally excellent. It develops central characters, keeps the pace rolling and consistently focuses on conflict. Even better, it employs heavy-doses of voice over perfectly.
  • Plus, the script is hilarious. This film is as laugh out loud funny as any other 2013 comedy, despite its heavy content.
  • Yet, The Wolf of Wall Street has a few minor flaws. Start with characterization of supporting female characters. Margot is well developed as a cash grabbing trophy wife wiling to tolerate no end of misbehavior so long as she remains wealthy, but she is the only female with any personality.
  • In a related issue, The Wolf of Wall Street never lets us identify with Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler), whose subway ride might be the most powerful moment in the film, his bit-player-status notwithstanding. Had Scorcese and/or Winters featured Denham more prominently, we could have rooted for Belfort’s antagonist. Which, as an ancilliary benefit, would have fueled the picture’s themes.
  • Finally, while The Wolf of Wall Street judges Jordan Belfort’s excesses and the ease with which society lets him recover from his mistakes, it glosses over the ill effects of his crimes.
  • But these are all minor flaws. The Wolf of Wall Street is a terrific film that satirizes the excesses of wealth and highlights possible social inequity in stratified financial classes. It earns any and all award recognition it might receive.
  • Final Grade: A-
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15 thoughts on “The Wolf of Wall Street

  1. I like your analysis of the editing of Schoonmaker and the use of music and how that plays out. Leo is too long overdue. He will get the award this year because he should have gotten in other films (Aviator and Blood Diamond and Django Unchained). Mark my words 😉

    • He certainly delivered Award-Worthy performances in every one of those movies. But should have gotten one? I don’t know. As great as he was in Django, he wasn’t even as memorable as his supporting co-star (Chirstoph Waltz).

      Blood Diamond was up against Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, and Aviator faced Don Cheadle’s Hotel Rwanda and Jamie Foxx’s Ray.

      DiCaprio has, in other words, had some bad luck. He’s delivered his best performances when other actors have given ones just as great. No matter his skill, he’s never quite been a slam dunk victor.

      This year, as much as his performance warrants an award, could be much the same. We’ll see.

      I certainly won’t be offended if DiCaprio brings home an Oscar. He earns it here, whether or not he gets it.

      • Waltz fantastic. Yes, I don’t have any issues with the former winners. I think DiCaprio tends to be up when the year is very strong. This year, I think it will be his turn.

  2. I really cannot wait to see this one. I hope the film’s crazy style and sense of humor will be something I’ll enjoy, otherwise it will be excruciating 3h in cinema.

  3. I’m so excited for this – and damn, I hope Leo snatches the Oscar this year. Glad to hear Jonah Hill is on his game, too, I have some newfound respect for him after seeing This is The End… But what cheers me the most is that you said the screenplay’s good – god knows screenwriters have been a slacking off this year… Awesome review!

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