Saturday, March 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) ***½

R, 180 min.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Terence Winter, Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, Christin Milioti, P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Ethan Suplee, Rob Reiner, Joanna Lumley, Jon Favreau, Matthew McConaghey

In his age, Martin Scorsese has become content to observe rather than propelling his characters down the rabbit hole with terse story structure. There are scenes in “The Wolf of Wall Street” where it seems as if Scorsese just lets his characters be. This works well for the kind of laid-back comedy he’s going for. Not that the lives of the characters are laid back, just the film’s approach to observing them.

The story is unfortunately not so unfamiliar in the post 2008 market crash world. Oliver Stone’s original “Wall Street” captured the consequences of unbridled greed during the era in which this film takes place. But here, Scorsese tells his story with a smirk on his face. Leonardo DiCaprio once again proves what a versatile performer he is by never seeming to get too heavy with his real life character of Jordan Belfort. Life was a party to him, and so is Scorsese’s film.

While it’s interesting, and surprisingly adds to the levity of the film, Scorsese’s impetus to just observe the party may also be a draw back of the film. The story and even some of the style—such as the voice over narration by the leading character—are very similar to Scorsese’s 1990 film “GoodFellas”. “GoodFellas” had a very sharp focus to its story structure, however, that “Wolf” lacks. We get to see a more intimate look into Belfort’s life of debauchery because of this, but much of the story’s tension is dissipated. It’s still a fine film. It just isn’t quite as good as “GoodFellas”.

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