The looseness of After Hours meets the corruption of Casino and the dark comedy and violence of The Departed in Martin Scorsese’s latest wonderwork The Wolf of Wall Street. Comprised of three hours of high quality candy, the fact-based story of Stratton Oakmont founder Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his inevitable downfall from a life of shady riches is both a kind of greatest hits collection and something wholly fresh, just the kind of end result one might hope for from a great director.
In peak form, Scorsese (with a major alley-oop from Terence Winter, working from Belfort’s titular autobiography) exudes complete control over the proceedings. Keeping things fresh with a string of memorable moments, bits of dialogue, shot compositions, edits, camera movements, and film speeds, this is the complete cinematic package. Though Jordan isn’t likable and neither are those around him, the way Scorsese & Co. tell his story is a complete delight and unexpectedly the year’s best comedy. The manic energy with which the story unfolds makes the abundance of debauchery easier to accept and brush off as entertainment instead of the ugly cautionary tale it truly is underneath the glitter.
Narrating The Wolf of Wall Street with improbable nonchalance and displaying an impressive range that covers the gamut of genres, this is the ultimate DiCaprio performance (so far). Never before has he been so charming nor so repugnant as he is here, conning people for his immense gain and torpedoing important personal relationships in the process. Frequently addressing the audience directly, he doesn’t break the fourth wall so much as shatter the concept into micro-dust, transforming viewers into quasi accessories to these crimes that only add to the fun. That he’s intelligently channeling Jordan while on an insane amount of drugs and booze makes it all the more enjoyable, partly because he and the film at large are that much more unpredictable.
Aiding the cause is a fine ensemble whose talents in this environment run embarrassingly deep. Jonah Hill, looking ridiculous in giant false teeth as Jordan’s business partner Donnie Azoff, finds a stunning middle ground between his Apatow comedies and Moneyball sincerity. Likewise strong, Margot Robbie smolders as Jordan’s second wife Naomi, Rob Reiner is a hilarious voice of reason as Jordan’s father Max, and Matthew McConaughey’s chest-thump-singing Wall Street mentor steals the show in what’s essentially a cameo. Together, these memorable creations and more get stupid with quaaludes, inspire an epic Benihana rant, and conjure an appearance by Popeye that ranks among Scorsese’s wildest scenes to date. 12 Years a Slave this is certainly not, but for the year’s most thrilling, rewatchable cinematic experience that still manages to offer a great deal of social commentary, The Wolf of Wall Street most certainly is that movie.
Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence.
The Wolf of Wall Street is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.