2 hours 59 minutes
From Paramount Pictures
At nearly a three-hour length, I admit I squirmed a bit in my seat and even dared bring out my cellphone, tucked it under my coat and checked the time. After listening to more swearing than I have heard in a film in a long time, witnessing more lines of cocaine go up the noses of most of the lead cast and spending time with characters who are little more than a melting pot of degenerate human flotsam, I felt a strong need to come home and bathe. It's not that this isn't a good film, it's that it's not a very nice one.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays a real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort who seems like the love child of Michael Douglas from Wall Street and Al Pacino from Scarface. Leo is in virtually every scene which he steals and slashes, bellows and commands with a breath-taking authority. I don't think he should just be nominated for an Oscar, he should win it. I admit I am quite partial to Leo but dammit he has been overlooked by the stodgy Academy long enough. Give this man the bloody Oscar. One could not ask more of him than he has done here. Tour-de-force doesn't quite cover it.
The excesses of the 1990s financial world and the nasty people that populate it is brought to the screen by crafty Martin Scorsese who knows a thing or two about excess and about performing autopsies on the living. Laid bare is the wanton disregard for people other than themselves... the greed... the extravagance... addictions to drugs and sex... the audacity... the crimes.
Belfort may not be well-known to people now but when they see this film, Google is going to be busy on checking him out. I'll assume the real man has redeeming qualities, but I could not detect any in the reel man. What we know when we first meet up with him is that he is young, married and wants to be rich. God, does he want to be rich. And he is utterly confident that he will be.
He has his eyes wide open when he's taken on at a stock brokerage firm and after a few pairings with wheeler-dealer Matthew McConaughey, our boy is on his way. (McConaughey, by the way, is only in about the first 15 minutes of the film, never to be seen or heard from again.) Soon that business closes down and Leo/Jordan embarks on an adventure of his own by hiring on at a smaller firm where he becomes the crown jewel and then he leaves to start his own company. He hires 4-5 hungry trolls, eager to drink his Kool-Aid and follow him anywhere in the financial jungle. He will teach them all they need to know to stay on those phones and separate the clients from their wallets. The salacious, unrestrained, opportunistic, hedonistic debauchery these people avail themselves of might make you want to rush home and bathe as well.
Securities fraud and money laundering aren't taken lightly by the FBI and of course as the second half of the film dawns, we see that in the true American spirit, bad must be punished. That's not to say that we don't spend some time wondering if these jerks are going to get away with it.
Scorsese's films are always dark and while this one is no exception, it does have a most delicious serving of comedy... perhaps the type of comedy one saw in Scarface. You don't remember comedy in Scarface? There are individual scenes that are gems... a cat and mouse game on a yacht with Belfort and the FBI, Belfort trying to make his way out of a country club after too many Quaaludes have kicked in and a vicious quarrel with his second wife after she says she is divorcing him.
Those who decide the ratings must have been catnapping when they assigned this film an R. Not only is there ear-splitting profanity but graphic sex scenes and liberal drug-taking.
I expect there will be great attendance for this film... DiCaprio and Scorsese (their fifth pairing, auteur and muse) should assure that... but how one feels about it leaving the theater may well be divided into at least two camps. To me it certainly exposes what's rotten about America today with respect to greed and that 1%. It's a gloomy feeling watching people taking advantage of others, not caring what happens to them whatsoever, as long as wallets plump up.
I cannot deny any of the acting or technical credits. All supporting roles are polished and shiny, although I admit to paying great attention to Margot Robbie (an Australian actress I have never heard of) as the hot mama second wife. Her role certainly reminded me of any number of actresses playing tough Mafia wives. And Kyle Chandler was so smooth as the FBI agent, a breath of fresh air in this cesspool of lowlifes.
One of my favorite cinematographers, Rodrigo Prieto, pushed his cameras into the middle of the hectic brokerage firms, charmed us with the luxuries of Italy, gorgeous mansions and a stunning yacht and brought an array of DiCaprio's facial expressions to the forefront. The actor has always given good face but this time it's the best. And there is wonderful first-person narration including DiCaprio's speaking directly to the camera... a device that is usually not a good idea but works splendidly here. The frenetic pace of the film was in great part helped by a wonderful use of music and songs.
Bravo to the meticulous Scorsese, Mr. Movie Director of today, for giving us another gripping film. I hope he and Leo never quit on one another.
Her Films with Burton