Review: Wolf of Wall Street (Great [Grandson] Gatsby)

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Somewhere between a hot mess and highly functioning addict you’ll find Jordan Belford, the ferocious moneymaker Leonardo DiCaprio turns into a sexpot in Wolf of Wall Street. This movie is Martin Scorsese’s newest, and like most of his work it’s a bent valentine to New York and all the explosive creations the city seems to birth.

A journalist at Forbes bestowed Belford his title as “Wolf of Wall Street” far before the guy was indicted for loads of felonies. Don’t worry he’ll go to (white collar) jail, so while you’re finding yourself mad about the character’s hoary, drug addled ways you’ll be "comforted" knowing the man who really stole the Maltese Falcon from the 1% did time for it. The movie doesn’t really tackle his obligations for restitution though many articles (including a saucy cover story in Baron's) go deep into the real-life recovery efforts. But this is a moooovie and before he does any awareness-raising Scorsese's first goal is to revive the outrageousness of the era and explain the slings and arrows one guy went through for his fortune. Damn is it a ride, complete with gratuitous soliloquy and a self-obsessed Prince for this place where everything smells rotten. DiCaprio is almost stunt cast: who else could do this and keep us wanting him?

Belford had colleagues, salesmen he molds in his image and their borderline incompetence in life gets paved over by the epic success they have selling imaginary stock for real money. Belford writes them a sales script and to show it works he uses it on a high-end cold-call in front of his team. His customer clearly likes to gamble, which makes the sodomy burlesque Belford does during the call seem that much harder to moralize. Over the phone you hear two things: 1. Belford’s persuasions are stunning and 2. His customer is having a great time. All suggesting that capitalism—if that’s what Belford’s perpetrating—is a system of “Bread and Circuses” that’s perfectly real and partially complicit. The tricky bit is that in America, anyone can be Emperor.

On a side note: this would be a great double feature with The Girlfriend Experience.

If you saw the trailer (and who hasn’t) you can guess this one’s on fire from start to finish. Wolf of Wall Street is a cinematic amphetamine. It moves at break neck speed for almost three hours and after, you’ll leave the theater wanting the gym. Oddly, the film's pedigree release date (Christmas day) alongside other Oscarbait conceals its genre. It’s a comedy. I laughed harder at this film than I did at The Heat (both on my top 10). All this laughing at the drug-addicted billionaire crook is almost the only slight Scorsese offers the guy, a villain who stole millions from fat cats and skinny cats alike. Between the Horacio Alger uplift and the unprecedented company parties (every Friday was a parade of freaks and hookers) you get this past-perfect picture of what Reaganomics wrought. Jordan Belford’s work was perfectly illegal and according to The Wolf of Wall Street his life was a sexy-furious wreck starring every chemical high (animal or mineral) fit to wear a price tag, but he seemed to survive whatever the world threw at him. And when the feds come and take him away, it’s a moment quieter than the din after the closing bell.

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