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See It, Rent It, Or Skip It: ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’

by Jennifer Hall
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The attainment of the American Dream by any means necessary sounds like a viable mantra to some, while unfolding as a vile refrain to others.

This is what Martin Scorsese explores in his latest project, The Wolf of Wall Street. Adapted from the memoirs of notorious stock-swindler-turned-motivational-speaker Jordan Belfort, the film is a manic train ride constantly threatening to derail at any moment.

Audiences are dropped into a boiler room of fleeting morality and overblown opulence. Scorsese directs a magnificent cast while simultaneously holding up a mirror to the capitalism and gluttony that eats away at the very fiber of American culture.

Long-time collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort, the ring master of a crazed circus where white collar criminality is glorified, employees openly engage in sexual intercourse with prostitutes, and drugs are as fundamental as oxygen.

We discover that Jordan’s journey began at the humble age of 22 as a broker-in-training. There he meets Mark Hanna notably brought to life by a hilarious Matthew McConaughey. Under Hanna’s tutelage Belfort learns the importance of cocaine and that playing “pocket pinball” several times a day keeps the stress away. Personally, I would opt for yoga, but Scorsese is painting a testosterone driven world—sans the downward-facing dog and yoga pants.

When the stock market crashes on Black Monday in 1987, Belfour finds himself working in Long Island at a penny stocks firm where he earns 50 percent commission ultimately amassing a small fortune.

He starts Stratton Oakmont, an investment firm made up of a motley crew of hustlers, drug dealers, and other unsavory characters that he in turn teaches to become successful brokers.

Without question, the film benefits from an exceptional cast. Stand out performances were rendered by DiCaprio, McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, and newcomer Margot Robbie.

DiCaprio dives head-first into Belfort. Usually segregated to dramatic roles, DiCaprio demonstrates his prowess with physical comedy by delivering one of the most hilarious yet equally appalling overdose scenes in history.

Along for the ride is Donnie Azoff played by Jonah Hill with bleached horse-like veneers. You have never seen Hill like this before; award nominations seem inevitable.

The highly anticipated black comedy teeters carefully on the line between brilliance and smut. Although rated R, the film flirts tirelessly with an NC-17 rating. Overrun with nudity and drug abuse; an obscene amount of time is spent deifying Belfort’s insatiable appetite.

Belfort does not pay fully for his indiscretions. Scorsese makes it clear that that is not the story that he is after. Belfort’s victims are not given faces, and are left to suffer in silence as he pops another Quaalude.

One wonders if the film’s elaborate portrayal of Jordan’s lifestyle truly serves as a cautionary tale or inspiration to embrace the barrage of decadence celebrated onscreen—the Tony Montana of the next generation.

Clocking in at around three hours, The Wolf of Wall Street is but one version of the American dream. Thoroughly entertaining and ripe with show-stopping performances I say, See It.

-Jennifer Hall, CBS Radio Charlotte

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