Move over The Departed I think it’s time you share the title of my favorite film by Martin Scorsese with the new kid on the block, The Wolf of Wall Street. (Side note: I have yet to see Goodfellas or Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or basically any of the older, more classic Scorsese and for that I apologize.) Going into WoW I was terrified that the hype I had been seeing all over the internet would ruin or dampen the film the same way it had with me for Gravity because no film could possibly live up to all the talk (both good and bad), right? WRONG. DEAD WRONG. I had no reason to worry. WoW was an amazing cinematic ride and easily won the spot as my favorite film of 2013 since I was having trouble thinking of what film held that spot in the first place and since this was the most fun I’ve had in theaters in long time (not counting fandom movies such as Catching Fire and Thor 2).
I think we all know where this review needs to start: with (one of) the men of the hour, Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo is one of my favorite actors period end of story. He could be in any film and I would pay to watch it. And for me, there was no one else in WoW but him. I couldn’t tear my eyes away because I believed with every fiber of my being that, love him or hate him, Leo WAS Jordan Belfort. The only time that slipped for a second was when he mentioned in the voice over that he bought a house on Long Island and I chuckled thinking of Gatsby and West Egg. Unlike some actors, think Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale who disappear inside their characters completely and in every film, Leo is one of those actors who is fantastic, but not consumed. There is always a shimmering outline of himself hidden somewhere in every character whether it he’s a poor boy on a big, sinking boat or a desperate dad just trying to get home to his kids. I can honestly say as much as I’ve loved him in everything else, this is the performance of Leo’s career. He seems so comfortable in this new character, he makes us (or at least he made me) care about Jordan and root for him on some weird inner level because he is not a caricature but a character, with more flaws than you can count. But there is something so human about that. We know this guy is a sleaze, but we’re captivated by him anyway. Llewyn Davis wasn’t a particularly nice guy, but we rooted for him too. I in no way condone Jordan’s lifestyle, but in some way I do understand it because of the way Leo plays him.
I can understand why people don’t like WoW. The drugs, the smoking, the sex, the f-bombs, blah blah. It’s also hard to invalidate a film such as this one by saying, “Oh it’s just a movie” because it actually happened and because as scary as it is to think about people actually live like this. While I’ve been avoiding reading reviews and discussions until I watched the film and had time to compose my own opinion, I don’t think this film celebrates or endorses Jordan’s lifestyle. Sure, he got off relatively easy, but sadly that’s the way the world works. The poor get poorer and the rich…get reality shows. I don’t like Jordan, I’m sure as I do more and more reading that feeling will grow stronger, but I liked the film. And those are two completely different feelings.
The other man of the hour is Mr. Martin Scorsese. Shame on me, but when I think of directors I love his name doesn’t cross my mind. That’s about to change. Seeing this film for me was like finding out your grandfather who just sits and watches TV all day is actually in a punk rock band by night (or something like that). It was just so cool, so current, so colorful, and downright crazy. I loved every minute of it. When I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I admit, I spent some time during the movie thinking about what I would say in my blog post just because I found my mind wandering. With WoW there was no time to think of anything like that because I was so absorbed in what I was watching and wondering what crazy thing they would do next.
Another thing Scorsese did well (I have too much respect to just call him Marty) was the music. Lately every film I see has a better soundtrack than the next; they just keep outdoing each other. The song “Mrs. Robinson” may be used in too many movies already, but I felt like WoW was what it was made for. It was equal parts peppy and hilarious and featured in a scene out of place enough to grab your attention. “Hey Leroy, Your Momma’s Calling You,” by Jimmy Castor and “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker,” by 7Horse were also used to equally great affect. There was a great mix of familiar and also not too well known music.
This review would not be complete without me mentioning Jonah Hill. If Moneyball was where I thought, “Hey this guy can act,” WoW was, “WOW THIS GUY CAN ACT.” He is over the top in a film where the top is hard to find. As hard as is it for me to say, he matches Leo blow for blow (literally) and is generally fearless with hilarious results. Jordan’s relationship with his character Donnie was where I found a lot of redemption in Jordan’s character, particularly near the end. Also, a special mentions go to Kyle “I have the worlds’ most thankless jobs in films” Chandler and Margot Robbie for being more than just a pretty face.
See Wolf of Wall Street. See it more than once and don’t feel bad because Jordan Belfort is getting none of the money from the price of your ticket. See to support the people who made this movie and people who will continue making movies like this that amaze, excite, and make us laugh. And Academy, come March 2nd (and January 16th), you better not let me down.
- It was driving me crazy who the actress playing Teresa (Jordan’s first wife) was and once I realized it was Cristin “The Mother” Milioti I couldn’t unsee it
- Honorable mention goes to Brad played by Jon Bernthal because I just really liked his character and he had a great introduction scene (and song)
- (*Spoiler*) I really hope that’s actually how Jordan got arrested because that was awesome and hilarious (*End of spoiler*)