Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Wolf Of Wall Street Review

Though it may be surprising to hear, I'm not one for following the Oscars. I think that there's a significant dissonance between what the Oscar crowd views as the "best movie" of a given year, and what modern American views as the best movie of the year. I can guarantee that movies nominated for best picture are going to be American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, 12 Years A Slave, maybe Blue is the Warmest Color, and I hope Gravity. That's not to say that these movies are bad, far from it, but usually the Oscars are followed by really interested movie buffs, and not the average public. The average public would rather watch something like Monster's University, The Wolverine, or Man of Steel. Again, not to say those movies are bad, but you get the idea that there's a big divide between what film buffs think the best movies of the year are, and what the average American thinks the best movies of the year are. Performances over entertainment pretty much. However, I think a consensus can be reached between these two groups with The Wolf Of Wall Street. It's not only a good film, but it's a damned great one.

That long intro aside, Wolf is a loose biopic about Jordan Belford, a New York stockbroker that made his money through selling penny stocks, or worthless stocks. He eventually becomes richer than anyone could ever foresee, and he lives life up in the lap of luxury and trying to make even more money through increasingly illegal deals, and getting more money, drugs, women, and Quaaludes than anyone could imagine. In other words, Goodfellas for the modern age. Just replace gangsters with stockbrokers, and then let the symbolism of that become even more apparent when you think about it. 

Midget tossing: Just another day on Wall Street
The biggest thing that differentiates Wolf from Goodfellas is that Wolf is a riotous comedy. I was pretty shocked at just how funny this movie actually is, and I would even go so far as to say I enjoyed it as a comedy more than I did Anchorman 2. You heard me; Leonardo DiCaprio is just as funny as Ron Burgundy. Such a thing shouldn't be, but here I am saying it. I loved the dark humor that this movie just exuded at every opportunity. Things like midget tossing, marching bands composed of naked whores, cocaine (and even a bit of incest?), I thrown at the audience, and it's hard to not enjoy it. It's infectous. 

When the characters have fun just being terrible people, then you feel like you're having a great time as well. I was glued to my seat watching an entire plane full of naked women have sex with every man on it while going to Vegas, and by God was it a rush. I haven't seen a movie all year that was this fun to watch, and I do not regret at all laughing at the things I laughed at. Probably the best moments include lemmons, and yes that is spelled right, and a baby monitor, and while in a lesser movie these might be played up as juvenile, here they're done to perfection. 

And that's not even talking about the cast. Dear lord, can someone just please give DiCaprio an Oscar for Best Actor already. I feel bad for the guy. He's been nominated so many times, and he's been shot down each of them. Just throw the guy a goddamn bone already! Jordan Belford is a man that jumps between, anger, optimism, inspirational, pathetic, and all sorts of various emotions at the drop of a hat. The character himself is done so well and portrayed so perfectly by DiCaprio that you actually believe that is man doing Quaaludes, cocaine, and every other drug known to man just to wake up in the morning. I know I never harp about an actor's performance, but seriously, give the guy an Oscar already!

Blue balls have never been so hilarious
Special mention goes to pretty much every other aspect of this film. Jonah Hill of all people is great as Donnie Azoff, Jordan's partner in this whole scheme, and is even more hilarious than Jordan is. Every scene feels like it's necessary and doesn't waste any time at all. There are some serious dramatic moments in this movie to that are played seriously despite the atmosphere, and they're done great. The movie knows when to be funny and when to play things seriously, and while there are more comedic moments than dramatic ones, I would still say that the movie's dramatic moments totally justify seeing the movie. It's dark when it needs to be and celebrates life and all of its sins when it needs to.

However, despite this glowing review, there are some problems. Not serious ones mind you, but significant problems none-the-less. I said it before and I'll say it again; this is a 3 hour movie. Three hours of watching rich people do terrible things and loving it. And yes, I did say that this movie has every single scene be necessary to telling its plot, but it's a large plot with dozens of minor characters and spends time developing each of them. For example, a part of the movie has Jordan and his associates going to Switzerland to offload their money at a Swiss bank there because the FBI is starting to investigate them. Instead of just showing them in Switzerland, we see how Jordan prepares for the plane ride (pssst! He prepares by doing drugs!), then showing everyone getting on the plane, then a cutaway to the next morning where Donnie recaps what happened, then them driving to the bank, and finally starting the meeting with Swiss bankers, but has inner narration between both DiCaprio and the head banker. It's funny, but it was completely unnecessary in dragging out an already elongated movie. If a comedy goes on for too long, then even though the movie is a ton of fun to watch and is funny, that initial rush fades and what we're left with is watching people having a great time when we want the party to be over.

Now this is my kind of marching band!
On a side note, I just have two observations about the movie. They really aren't critiques, but just general things that I've noticed about the movie that I just feel like mentioning. First off, can all Hollywood directors just please stop making reference to Occupy Wall Street and the 1%? I mean, I know it's a significant part of our culture the divide between big business and the people that run it to the workers and average people and how evil and corrupt the businesses are, but I think that point has been driven into the ground already. This is pretty much Goodfellas for OWS, and shows just how corrupt businesses can be and that Wall Street is corrupt and no better than average criminals. The message has been received, and I just hope that we don't see more of this next year, because frankly the idea is starting to wear out.

Also, from a feminist perspective, this movie is mainly used to sexualize women pretty much all the time. There are countless whores, prostitutes, and sequences dedicated to how much sex the men can have with them, and the actual female lead, Jordan's wife Naomi, is mostly just a walking sex object. Hell, Jordan ditches his wife just to have sex with her when she appears completely naked in a doorway. I'm not saying this movie is sexist is misogynistic at all, because the whores and the objectification of women is used to enhance the mood and atmosphere that this movie is giving, but seeing a feminist perspective on this movie would be really damned interesting.

Yes that is a naked women taped with money. Got a problem?
Despite it's incredibly long length and the fact that some jokes are hit or miss and/or elongated until the joke is no longer funny, this movie is a complete blast to watch. This is Goodfellas for the 21st century, and there is nothing wrong with that. The only problem I have with this movie is rating it. I have no idea whether or not to give this movie a perfect 5 out of 5, or a very, very impressive 4 out of 5. It's good, don't get me wrong, but it's more of a question of "Is this movie perfect?", and the answer is no, no it isn't. However, it comes damned close to it, and I feel that even though this movie may have some flaws, I can't in all honesty give it anything lower than that. This may not be perfect, but it's damned close and that's good enough for me. I give The Wolf of Wall Street a very well deserved 5 out of 5.

My film of the year is now in competition...

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