‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ huffed and puffed and blew me away!

Published 8:49 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

By Lauren Bradshaw

Just when I thought my list of the top films of the year was complete, Martin Scorsese’s outrageous, daring, unapologetic, debaucherous (I could go on) new dark comedy, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” huffed and puffed and blew my list down (I promise that will be the only wolf reference for the rest of the review). Being that it was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and the fact DiCaprio and Scorsese have yet to make a bad movie together, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that it found itself in my top five. The powerhouse duo’s four previous films include: “The Departed,” “Gangs of New York,” “Shutter Island,” and “The Aviator.” Not too shabby, boys!

After winning the rights to produce “The Wolf of Wall Street” in a heated bidding war against Brad Pitt, the film has been DiCaprio’s passion project for more than five years; he just had to wait for the right time for Scorsese to come onboard and direct. To be honest, I can see why DiCaprio waited as long as he did. It took someone with incredible vision and showmanship to pull this film off, and not many directors could make every element come together the way Scorsese does. Not to mention, there aren’t many people who can make a three-hour movie fly by; don’t let the runtime scare you, “The Wolf of Wall Street” never drags. In fact, if Scorsese had director’s cuts of his films, I would love to see the hour of footage he ended up cutting from the finished product.

Based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiography of the same name, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the true story of Belfort’s (DiCaprio) rise and fall on Wall Street, where his company, Stratton Oakmont, defrauded thousands of investors by selling them risky penny stocks. The millions of dollars that Belfort, his right-hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and his other hundreds of employees made off of these illegal dealings was then invested not in the bank, but in hookers, drugs and alcohol. What makes this story even more ridiculous is that Belfort’s hard-partying lifestyle was not left for “after work hours;” he ensured the insane, over-the-top “fun” was included in his daily work environment as well. I don’t know of many offices that pay for scantily clad marching bands to parade through the office or secretaries to shave their heads for entertainment, but maybe I’m just not working in the right places.

Unsurprisingly, this extreme level of excess not only starts to harm Belfort’s relationship with his second wife Naomi (Margot Robbie), but also starts to catch the attention of the authorities, particularly the FBI. When FBI Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) sets his sights on Belfort and his company, it appears the Wolf and his hard-partying lifestyle may have finally met its match.

Anyone that knows me knows I may be THE leading Leonardo DiCaprio expert in North America. I have been a super fan of his since his brave turn as Arnie in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” and, like many girls (and some boys) my age, the obsession reached feverish levels during the “Titanic” years. That being said, it should be especially telling when I say DiCaprio has never been better than his performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” He gives everything to this role and is absolutely fearless throughout the entire film, expertly flexing his comedic muscle the way some typically dramatic actors could only dream. The car crawling scene alone is not only my favorite scene in a movie this year, it is easily worth your price of admission (and a few more after that). I can’t wait to see how many hits that clip receives on YouTube. DiCaprio also finds a way to make an incredibly selfish, morally bankrupt character entertaining, a feat few actors could pull off. Although I didn’t love Belfort, I loved watching him and applaud DiCaprio’s ability to make him feel like a real person instead of a satire.

While this is clearly DiCaprio’s movie (I believe he is in every scene of the film), the supporting cast of characters are no slouches themselves. Jonah Hill deserves a supporting actor nod for his role as the slimy Donnie. Although Hill has had practice playing disgusting characters before, Donnie may be the worst of all. Over the past few years, Hill has really shown he cannot only act in comedies, but dramas as well. If critics thought his performance in “Moneyball” was luck, just wait until you see him in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” He is extraordinary.

Margot Robbie (“About Time”) also deserves a huge amount of praise for her performance in the film. I hate to admit that when I first saw her come onscreen I didn’t expect much out of her or her character. I thought she had mostly been cast for her model-like appearance. As it turns out, Robbie and her character Naomi have extraordinary amounts of depth. She is not only one of the most beautiful actresses working in Hollywood right now, but she is also extremely talented. Watch out, world! Although it may not be fair, Robbie really is as beautiful as she is a great actress.

“The Wolf Of Wall Street” bookends what has been one of the best years for movies in a decade. The film is a riotous look at greed, excess and corruption, in a package that is hard to look away. Between the fantastic performances, unbelievable storyline and debaucherous action, “The Wolf Of Wall Street” is not a movie to be missed this holiday season; just make sure you leave the kids at home.

My Review: A+