Out of all of the filmmakers currently working in the industry, there are only a few that I can confidently say will continue to be legends in the decades to come. Martin Scorsese is most certainly one of those very few filmmakers that will never fade with time. He's absolutely brilliant in his craft, as he's known for having the ability to transform a despicable character into somebody that audiences will be captivated by. This is a challenging feat, as most screenplays feature a likable and somehow-relatable role as the lead "protagonist," regardless of whether or not they're coined as being "good" people. Well, now Scorsese is back with another engaging piece of cinema that will grab ahold of your attention and keep it through the majority of the running time.
The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). He was a stockbroker, who worked his way to the top of Wall Street. Belfort helped coach a team of salesmen, such as Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) to help him with his scheme. He begins living the high life filled with sex, drugs, and parties. He marries the beautiful Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie), but he doesn't treat her very well. After some time, federal agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins to investigate the case. Belfort is forced to keep his head down by trying to find a way to get his profits put into a Swiss bank account, managed by Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin). This biography explores the crime and corruption that Belfort was involved in, as well as the fall of this stockbroker as both a figure on Wall Street and an American man.
In the beginning of the first act, we're introduced to a younger Jordan Belfort, who is passionate to work his way to being a stockbroker. This naive young man soon finds his love for the adrenaline that hits him in the environment of a call room and selling stocks to one person after another. After meeting with Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) for lunch, he learns a lot of the "inside tips" to working in the field. This is a major turning point for Jordan, as he later exhibits the same behavior when he makes it big. Writer Terence Winter takes full advantage of having voice over work done in order to provide information to the viewers. While this is normally seen as being a lazy way of informing audiences, Winter does it elegantly by adding a lot of charm, wit, and humor. This film simply wouldn't be the same without it. We spend the majority of the first act displaying how Belfort got into this field and how he mastered the craft of deceiving naive people into investing thousands of dollars into a worthless stock. He was an expert salesman, and this screenplay does a marvelous job in displaying him in action.
Keeping in mind the fact that The Wolf of Wall Street has a ton of sex and drugs, it proves to be a constant through the three hour running time. In fact, it gets a little bit repetitive at times. There are a lot of party scenes where we watch the lead character get incredibly high and do crazy things. These scenes have no real purpose other than to be funny and to show how out-of-control things were, but some of it comes across as being fodder. Fortunately, Scorsese has captured one of the best drug scenes I have ever seen. In any other Hollywood flick, it would be a quick little snippet in order to gain some laughs. However, he keeps it going. Just when you think that it's about to end, it just continues. This sequence had me and everybody else in the press screening laughing out loud. Not only is it hilarious, but it's handled in such a phenomenal way. I don't want to ruin anything about it, but you'll know what scene it is when you see it. Terence Winter's screenplay has fantastic comedic timing, while still maintaining an incredibly difficult story to tell. This is extremely impressive screenwriting, to say the least.
Jordan Belfort's treatment of women is part of the story, but it may take some aback. Once these scenes begin, there's no end to them until the credits are rolling. If you're easily offended by the mistreatment of women, then this probably isn't the motion picture for you to check out. Keeping that in mind, Belfort is an absolute scumbag. There's no denying this. However, that doesn't stop him from being an intriguing person to learn about. With any other director or writer, it most likely wouldn't have worked out in the same way. Since they're working with such a despicable character, most audiences won't be rooting for the lead in the slightest. This could have made it difficult for audiences to sit through three hours of a story being told from his perspective. Fortunately, it actually works extremely well in this case. This entertainment lasts for the first two acts, as it will hold your attention through these portions of the running time. However, the third act has flaws that stick out like a sore thumb. The filmmakers have difficulty in handling the downfall of the lead. A lot of it feels unnecessary, and this is when the pacing slows. This is when the three hour running time truly starts to leave its mark. By getting rid of the excess material, The Wolf of Wall Street could have been a much cleaner and tighter motion picture.
Before even seeing a trailer, it was clear that this would have a stellar cast involved. Leonardo DiCaprio provides the best performance of his career in the role of Jordan Belfort. This character, and the film itself, simply wouldn't have worked without him in the lead role. He's so incredibly charming and convincing, that he makes this character even more fascinating. He handles the dramatic and comedic elements in an impeccable fashion. This is one hell of a performance that won't be forgotten. Jonah Hill does a wonderful job in the supporting role of Donnie Azoff. He's quite funny and he works incredibly well on screen with DiCaprio. He has proven yet again that he's able to handle a wide dynamic of material, and he isn't just "that guy from the Judd Apatow flicks." Once Margot Robbie was introduced as Naomi Lapaglia, I thought that she was simply going to be eye candy for male audiences. However, she manages to deliver an outstanding representation of Belfort's wife. Robbie's dialogue delivery is excellent and she holds her own against DiCaprio. Even though Jean Dujardin's part as Jean-Jacques Saurel is quite short, he's a nice addition to this wonderful cast.
If this is similar to any of Martin Scorsese's previous films, it would have to be GoodFellas. It's most certainly another quality motion picture for this filmmaker to add to his large catalog of impressive titles. Writer Terence Winter has delivered a marvelous screenplay that is filled with wit, charm, and humor. While the majority of the picture is absolutely fantastic, the third act struggles to keep its head above water. This is where the pacing slows down and you'll find yourself wishing that a lot of it was left on the cutting room floor. However, Leonardo DiCaprio can be seen in the best performance of his career, as he portrays the loathsome Jordan Belfort. Will Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar? He sure deserves it for this one. The Wolf of Wall Street is smart, entertaining, and impactful. Highly recommended!