(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: The Wolf Wall Street (2013)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Jordan Belfort is a terrible human being who should be in jail for the rest of his life for being a psychopathic capitalist, but damn does it makes for an entertaining movie.
Why It’s on the List: I had to think long and hard about putting this movie on the list because I find the people to be morally repugnant. Let’s be absolutely clear. These people are terrible, and I wish this movie had really defined just how terrible people these are. Kyle Chandler getting to play the role of the FBI agent is what gives the real protagonists a fighting chance. I can see why people enjoy trashy reality shows and guilty pleasure offerings like some daytime talk shows because this is similar in a lot of ways. This just has a certain glossy sheen to it.
This story is told similarly to Goodfellas. Jordan Belfort is the narrator and moves us from scene to scene rather quickly. This movie is almost exactly three hours long though and really embraces debauchery. When there isn’t a scene involving the FBI, there’s either some form of drinking, drugs, making coitus, or even short person tossing. Everyone is seemingly on a heater, and Scorsese does a great job portraying the chaos of this situation. It’s almost as if he might know something about this kind of lifestyle.
Martin Scorsese has used Leonardo DiCaprio as his modern day muse for a number of years going back to Gangs of New York, extending to The Departed, and also involving two other collaborations that don’t receive as much acclaim but are almost an underrated part of his filmography. This almost feels like the natural climax of their relationship as DiCaprio is in nearly every scene and such a focal point of the film.
The other performances are quite good. Jonah Hill got a much deserved nomination as Belfort’s right hand man. Margot Robbie does what she can despite being relegated to an object of desire and the male gaze perspective. Rob Reiner, maybe not the best director or political follow these days, goes full bore. Although not a maim character, he gets to chew scenery in small increments and matches the energy Scorese was going for. This quite honestly is the closest thing to a guilty pleasure I have on this.
Oh, and poor Cristin Milioti.
*A strong argument could be made that this movie is misogynistic and endorses psychopathic capitalist behavior.
*The financing of this movie is a bit questionable. We’re talking stolen money to the point even the feds were looking at it.
*Jordan Belfort himself has a cameo, and regardless of how entertaining and funny this movie can be, he’s morally repugnant.
MVP: Martin Scorsese was 71-years-old when this came out, and for so many filmmakers, the last few years are rough. They struggle to stay current and keep the same energy they did when they were younger and hungrier. There are filmmakers on this list, including Robert Zemeckis and Francis Ford Coppola, haven’t made even a decent film the last decade. The fact that this movie is as energetic and maintains the same pace as Goodfellas is incredible. I don’t think this movie is nearly as tight. This does indulge in some pretty awful behavior, and I’m sure the sure hand of editor Thelma Schoonmaker is the reason his movies never fall off the deep end. They have one of the legendary collaborations in the history of cinema. They both deserve equal credit for this movie being as good as it is.
Best Performance: Leonardo DiCaprio should have won his Oscar for this movie instead of having to literally go inside of a bear to get it. In previous Scorsese collaborations, he was either in support of someone like Daniel Day-Lewis or acting alongside legends like Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen. It was tough for him to really stand out as an actor compared to everyone else.
Best Quote: “Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I have been a rich man and I have been a poor man. And I choose rich every fuckin’ time. Because, at least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I show up in the back of the limo, wearing a $2000 suit and a $40,000 gold fuckin’ watch”. – Jordan Belfort
Is there a sequel? No.