“Scorsese yet again at his best!”
New York and it’s most adored filmmaking son, Martin Scorsese have gone hand in hand in a career nearly forty years old. From Mean Streets to Taxi Driver, to Raging Bull and to Goodfellas, the city that never sleeps has become the landscape for the veteran director to explore the seedy under belly of the American dream. Now, in his fifth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, Scorsese delves into a three-hour sprawling epic about the wealthy exploits of real life stock broker Jordan Belfort, to see the dark side of human nature at the very top of New York’s wealthiest avenue.
DiCaprio plays Belfort, a self-taught salesman whose early days as a young stock broker in New York leads him to form his own business with the help of Donnie (played by Jonah Hill), looking to turn pennies into dollars. But as the mass amount of money rolls in, the parties, suits and cars becoming more extravagant, as Belfort’s plan to welcome in more greed and power into his vastly expanded lifestyle takes a hold. But the drugs, strippers and the question of whether his business is actually legal at all is starting to take its toll, with FBI agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) looking to nail “Wolfie” once and for all.
Aswell as it’s overriding moral message, the one thing to take from this is just the sheer amount of dark humour this movie has. We’re plonked right into the chaotic circus of our characters wealth and shown just what happens to people who have enough money that they don’t know what to do with it. But before we see the consequences of that, Scorsese is taking us for a roller coaster of pills, strippers and non-stop absurdity that you begin to think this couldn’t have been a true story. But of course, it is, taken from the account of the real life Belfort, brilliantly played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
With his last roles playing Jay Gastby and Calvin Candie, DiCaprio makes Belfort a trio of characters chasing and ultimately failing at the American dream. Wanting to get rich quick, he plays this force of power, nihilistic, intolerable, and really hard to like and does it blatantly but fantastically. It’s hard to do, seeing as his character taps into a dark mindset of wanting expanses of wealth and kicking the smaller minded down to get there, unable to see past the dollars and see the effect it has until it’s too late. It has a biographical, even confessional sense to his performance that feels the most cohesive and mature of all his Scorsese films, feeling more biographical than The Aviator.
But as with the most successful of Scorseses’ movies, the exploitation is all on parade. Whether or not the portrayal of women, drugs and the parties are glorified or used as a beating stick to show the black heart of these characters, Scorsese is not afraid to put it all on show to let you formulate your own opinion. He’s shown the dangers of corrupting power before and here is no different, resonating a story very much from the late 80’s into a modern-day metaphor. It can be seen on many levels but the epic huge scope the film has is even more impressive, but journeying through years in a blink of an eye, we’re taken around the world with our main character with no expenses spared.
Jonah Hill is terrific, showing he can do serious aswell as comedy, despite the fact he’s pretty much perfectly picked to play the laughable moments. Not so much Belfort’s business partner, or sidekick, but someone else who we see goes on this induced journey from the very start. DiCaprio’s wife Naomi (played by Margot Robbie) is pitched brilliantly and becomes the emotive victim in all the chaos that ensues, becoming the moral heart. Supporting actors including, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin fit perfectly into this explosive world and their characters come across just as corruptible and passive as our lead character.
But no matter the nature and tone this film is played at, it’s Scorsese yet again at his best. Adding to his most important works of his home city and demonstrating a direction that goes nostalgically back to the Goodfellas and Casino days. Even at three hours, it will test, but by the end he has taken you on a well worth journey about what it ultimately means to chase fortune and live the fleeting highs before it all becomes inevitably a thing of the past. But whether you think it’s pointing the finger at us or at the Wall Street wealthy, he at least allows you to question your own opinions about the moral pursuit of success.
It’s a hugely enjoyable whirlwind of a movie in a sea of wealth that doesn’t let up one bit, with Scorsese and DiCaprio together on the top of their game.