Monday, February 17, 2014

'The Wolf of Wall Street'

This is without a doubt the funniest movie I've seen in a very long time. And I had no idea. I didn't read the reviews. I only really heard about the movie when all the other Hollywood-awards buzz got going, and even then --- having seen serious productions like "12 Years a Slave" --- discounted the importance of this film. But it's a keeper. Not a "best picture" candidate in my opinion (it's nominated), although Leo DiCaprio's performance is as "best actor" award-worthy as anything I've seen this season. The movie's extreme portrayal of money-powered, drug-fueled, and sex-crazed out-of-control excess is so over-the-top it's a bit hard to take too seriously, which for me is what makes "Wolf" that much more compelling. It's a comedic no-apologies flash down the fast lane of "greed is good" high-finance debauchery. DiCaprio brings his role to life in a virtuoso performance, along with the very impressive Jonah Hill as his sidekick and partner in crime. And the smokin' Margot Robbie definitely heats up the screen (with a "fresh-face" attractiveness that's hard to resist).

That said, the movie's too long. I don't know? What, like three hours? And then there's the normative (ethical) questions: Does this film unquestioningly glamorize massive hedonistic gluttony and a literally mean-spirited commercial sensibility? (The scene where the broker-trainee is fired from Stratton Oakmont for cleaning a fishbowl on IPO day is brutal and made me feel sorry for the f-ker.) The Los Angeles Times captures the film's controversy over ethics:

Love it or hate it, "The Wolf of Wall Street," more than seemingly any other movie in the Oscar frame, has gotten audiences up in arms and debating it all through the holidays and into the final pre-noms stretch.
In any case, about those reviews which I missed. Check A.O. Scott at the New York Times, "When Greed Was Good (and Fun): DiCaprio Stars in Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’"; Richard Brody at the New Yorker, "The Wild, Brilliant 'Wolf of Wall Street'"; and Betsy Sharkey at the Los Angeles Times, "Review: Scorsese, DiCaprio go hunting in 'Wolf of Wall Street'."

RELATED: At Business Week, "Jordan Belfort, the Real Wolf of Wall Street," and William D. Cohan, at the New York Times, "The Tame Truth About the Wolves of Wall Street."