There is a select group of actors that are amongst the elite. These actors can make anything worth seeing. Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale… just a few of the names that come to my mind. Without a doubt, Leonardo DiCaprio is a member of that illustrious group. DiCaprio can sell any script to an audience, and perhaps that makes him perfect to portray Jordan Belfort aka the real life Wolf of Wall Street.
There are two points in the film where DiCaprio asks someone to give him an example of how to sell a pen. How it is done is both difficult and simple at the same time. The same can be said about Martin Scorsese’s three hour black comedy which tells the real life story of American stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Belfort himself even has a cameo at the end). In many ways, it is nothing we haven’t seen before. Think Goodfellas with a New York stock market backdrop. But if there’s any director/actor combo in this day and age that can make a three hour movie void of CGI explosions and fight scenes worth our time, it’s Scorsese and DiCaprio.
The movie takes us on Jordan Belfort’s meteoric rise and inevitable fall in the late 80’s and early 90’s. DiCaprio’s Belfort is what you’d imagine any 25 year old millionaire to be; a manipulative, money crazed, drug addicted, degenerate. He also just happens to be an intelligent, ambitious, charismatic, hard working tactician with the ability to motivate anyone to pretty much do anything. He does have a tad bit of a heart, but it’s as seldom seen as his sobriety.
With 99% of the screen time in his hands, DiCaprio does what DiCaprio has always done; be great. He puts as much charm and passion into every scene as Jordan Belfort puts into his sales meetings with his ever-attentive subordinates. But he isn’t alone. And perhaps that is why the film seems to blow buy despite its ridiculous running time. The supporting cast each adds its own unique flavor to every moment their on screen. Jonah Hill is magnificent as Donnie, Belfort’s bumbling, out of control enabler and right hand man. Matthew McConaughey is hilarious in a brief role as Belfort’s first boss and mentor. And newcomer Margot Robbie is nothing short of mesmerizing as Belfort’s sexy trophy wife.
Because of its length, the movie gets self indulgent. But that might be the point of it all. We all know what’s going to happen as we watch Belfort’s hilarious, yet irresponsible rise to the top. Like any drug, it will be fun while it lasts, but eventually it will all come to a horribly dark climax. Luckily for us, we have Leo to make the journey worth while.
FINAL GRADE: A-