The Wolf of Wall Street

This film combines the DNA of Bernie Madoff, Hugh Hefner and Bob Guccione. Janis Joplin had it right, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

The Wolf of Wall StreetThe only way to accurately describe Martin Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is to refer to a comment made by an elderly woman (older than me!) sitting in my row in the theater. As the movie ended and I stood to leave, she looked up at me, smiled and said, “Nothing like seeing a soft porn movie on a Sunday!” To which I responded, laughingly, “It wasn’t Soft, madam!”;

Bawdy and lascivious, the film literally is consumed with drugs, sex but no rock and roll. Scorcese has made a stylish skin flick passing as an alleged sensational film.

Though there are a few superior performances in the film, there isn’t a character that you will remotely admire, much less like. Taking place in the early 1990’s, it describes a large group of young Wall Street fringe players who freely violate the law in the interest of satisfying both pleasure and passion.

Any review has to start with the magnificent performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, playing the amoral, hateful Jordan Belfort. Based on a book written by this wretched soul, DiCaprio’s Belfort enters Wall Street with lofty ideals and a great marriage, both of which soon disappear.

It is hard to name a better actor than Mr. DiCaprio, who follows up memorable performances in last year’s Django Unchained and this year’s The Great Gatsby. Unfortunately, his role here as Mr. Befort resembles the plantation owner he embraced in Django, the difference being that his employees on Wall Street replace the roles of slaves.

Ironically, one of the best scenes in the film is at the beginning involving Matthew McConoughey. In a cameo appearance, McConaughey sets DiCaprio on his destructive path as he describes the purpose of a Wall Street trader as nothing more than putting money in his own pocket. McConoughey also describes the importance of the daily use of vodka, cocaine and masturbation, which pretty much encompasses the rest of the film.

Jonah Hill is an uninspired waste of time playing DiCaprio’s assistant, doing little more than joining his boss with the use of a large amount of drugs, principally Quaaludes. He also loves the company of prostitutes, a hobby that dominates their lives.

To be quite frank, the only other roles that hold your attention are played by Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler and Rob Reiner. Ms. Robbie is startlingly attractive, playing DiCaprio’s sultry and seductive second wife. Her performance includes scenes where she is completely nude (not an unpleasant sight), so you can follow the plot development from there.

Mr. Reiner appears as Max Belfort, DiCaprio’s father. Having never been better since his role as “Meathead” on the classic TV series All in the Family(1971-1979), Mr. Reiner serves as the harassed accountant of his son, forced to finally embrace the young man’s excesses.

Mr. Chandler plays the only decent person in the entire movie, an FBI agent who is on to DiCaprio’s trail. DiCaprio mocks him for his  small annual income, not to mention his use of the subway to get to the office each day. What you end up with is a profound prick and an admirable public employee, and the fact that the movie focuses on the prick’s lifestyle summarizes the meaning of the entire film.

Though I rarely complain about the length of a film, Wolf repeatedly becomes unfortunately repetitive in its sprawling three hours, leaving you drowning in its regrettable lifestyle. The parties given by Mr. DiCaprio’s Belfort lack all of the style and opulence of the ones he threw as Gatsby. Furthermore, if you were required to watch his exuberant lectures of his employees one more time, you would have had to resist chanting, “For God’s sake, enough already!”;

In the end, as you watched DiCaprio and his second marriage disintegrate in a manic haze fueled by a love of Quaaludes, only one thing could have saved the film. More to the point, you desperately wanted to hear The Animals singing their classic hit,

“We gotta get out of this place,
If it’s the last thing we ever do.
We gotta get out of this place.
Girl, there’s a better life
For me and you.” (1965)