“Not all good movies are about Good People. I also like movies about
Bad People who have a sense of humor. Orson Welles, who does not
play either of the Good People in The Third Man, has such a winning
way, such witty dialogue, that for a scene or two we almost forgive him
his crimes. Henry Hill, the hero of GoodFellas, is not a good fella, but
he has the ability to be honest with us about why he enjoyed being bad.”
-Roger Ebert, from his memoir Life Itself
There’s little doubt that Jordan Belfort, the ring leader of this circus of depravity, enjoyed being bad and certainly had a sense of humor about it all. I haven’t laughed so hard in a theater in many years. After 50 years in the film business, most legendary directors are either kicked back, living on easy street or have kicked the bucket. Martin Scorsese on the other hand, at age 70, was busy creating his best film since 1995′s Casino. Full of drug induced debauchery and sharp, biting humor, The Wolf of Wall Street is a titanically over the top satire about a sleazeball and his cronies who made piles of money screwing over a lot of unsuspecting people.
Unfortunately, not everyone seems to get the joke, and a swell of backlash has sprung up accusing the film of glorifying the lead character and his deplorable acts. Do I think Scorsese, DiCaprio and rest of the cast and crew condone the actions of the people depicted, of course not. But let’s be honest, when someone comes into a lot of money and combines that with a lot of drugs, that is a recipe for some crazy antics, and Scorsese isn’t going to sugarcoat those antics. Instead, he’s used them to shine a light on Wall Street, an industry filled to this day with hundreds of Jordan Belforts, all trying every sneaky back door deal to fleece their clients of every dollar they can get their hands on. But, like every other controversial Scorsese film, the naysayers will eventually go away leaving just the greatness of the film to remain the lasting image for future cinema fans.
DiCaprio said he’d been eyeing this role for six years, and that personal passion for the project comes across in every scene he’s in. To say he is electric on screen is an understatement, he completely immerses himself into the character, creating a riveting performance that rivals last year’s shocking portrayal of Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. Most years, Leo would be a lock for Best Actor. But this isn’t most years, and I don’t think he can pass Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club) or Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave). And I’m OK with that because it means 2013 was one heck of a year for illustrious performances, and that’s all we can ask for as fans of great cinema.
Filled with biting humor, no film in 2013 made me laugh harder than The Wolf of Wall Street, proving yet again Martin Scorsese is still at the top of his game. I fully expect it to join the pantheon of classic Scorsese crime dramas Goodfellas and Casino.-JL