Earlier this month Paramount Pictures announced to film exhibitors that “The Wolf of Wall Street” would be the last film they will release on 35 mm. The digital age is here and from now on film is no more. My only thoughts is that they saved the best for last.
Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a man on his way up. He has gotten caught up in the Wall Street boom of the mid 1980s and taken a job at a firm where he soon hopes to be making big bank. He is taken to lunch by, and under the wing of, the firm’s owner (McConaughey) and it is here that he learns the important part of Wall Street: you’re not making THEM money, you’re making YOURSELF money! When the Market crashes on Black Monday, Jordan finds himself out of work and searching the want ads. He applies to a firm that he learns is located in a strip mall. The main staple being sold are penny stocks…companies on the way up (allegedly) that consumers can get for pennies a share. Learning that his commission is 50% of what he sells, Jordan follows his mentors advice and makes himself $3000 on his first deal. Soon he decides to form his own firm, taking a few of his co-workers with him. Among them is Donnie Azoff (Hill, once again back in Oscar territory). Together they start a company where the money rolls in, the drugs roll out and Dwarf tossing is a competitive sport!
Based on the memoirs of the real-life Belfort, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a humorous, depraved and intriguing look at the excess of the 1990s and the effect it had on people. When we first meet Jordan, his voice over tells us that he made $49 million last year. But he’s not proud of that fact, he’s annoyed. Another $3 mill and he could have said that he made a million dollars a week. Poor guy! As portrayed by DiCaprio, Belfort is a fun loving guy who is more than happy to share the wealth…and drugs…and hookers. His firm becomes so successful that competitions are held between prospective employees before they are even seen for an interview. DiCaprio has done his best work with Scorsese (this is their 5th collaboration) and he knocks it out of the park here. If a fourth Academy Award nomination (and first Award) aren’t forthcoming the Academy and I are going to have a stern conversation. From emotional highs to dramatic lows to some incredible physical comedy, DiCaprio gives Belfort something he probably didn’t have in real life: a soul. Hill is excellent as the nebbish Azoff. Also turning in great supporting work is Kyle Chandler, as an FBI agent on Jordan’s trail, Jean DuJardin as Jordan’s Swiss compatriot and, in a rare on screen appearance, Rob Reiner, who plays Jordan’s father.
Technically, this is Scorsese at his best. Is there a better storyteller working today? Armed with his usual sidekicks, including film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese has fashioned another masterpiece, just in time for the holidays. In my humble opinion, the is the best film of 2013.