Tuesday, February 18, 2014

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET - 5 nominations


Best Picture - Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers
Actor in a Leading Role - Leonardo DiCaprio
Actor in a Supporting Role - Jonah Hill
Directing - Martin Scorsese
Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Terence Winter

Ok, I admit that I've been deeply dreading this review, because who wants to say that they enjoyed a film in which a morally bankrupt criminal displays the most abhorrent behaviors?  Jordan Belfort, the notorious bilker and schemer and his partners who do the same all without a blink of an eye are the very people who stirred up class warfare in American society.  These are the very steal from the middle class and give to the rich wall streeters who embody the worst in what excess and privilege can engender in people.

But, unfortunately, the movie is as intoxicating as the drugs they take must be.  There is much controversy in the film because it's basically a three-hour orgy of misogyny, swearing, and debauchery, and to some it could feel like a tribute to all of those things.  I think the film is more complicated than that, because watching people lose their humanity is deeply personal, and the truth is that the actors in the film seem to comprehend that in their performances.  (I could live without Jonah Hill's strange New York accent, but other than that, well played by both him and Leonardo DiCaprio, especially.)

It is masterfully directed, and though I do love Scorsese films, I don't approach them without a scrutinizing eye.  In this case, it is clear that the camera is used in a way to either pull in close so that we can develop a sense of connection with the characters, or pulled back just far enough so that we are lured into ruthlessly and harshly judging them.  Scorsese is at his best in this film, and despite the frenzied tone of many of the scenes, it is clear that he is not directing without a strong plan.

There is no Wolf of Wall Street without the brilliantly crafted screenplay.  The writing is certainly graphic, and has garnered much attention for the most uses of the f word in a single movie.  I was not distracted by that triviality, because the use of the language is not gratuitous.  It is used purposefully and to create an atmosphere that we, who work in jobs where those euphemisms would not be acceptable, can begin to understand.  I have no idea if this portrayal of wall street risk-takers is authentic, but it certainly feels authentic, which I suppose is the mark of truly good writing.

This is another film that would never make the top 5 Best Picture nominees in the old days.  There are much better, much more important movies out this year.  Having said that, it is clear once you see it where the hype is coming from, and why it is genuinely deserved.

Haven't seen the film?
Watch The Wolf of Wall Street Movie Trailer

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