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“The Wolf of Wall Street” Simply Over-The-Top

Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie star in "The Wolf of Wall Street ." (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie star in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is one of the longest and most over-the-top movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, played very well by Leonardo DiCaprio, though not deserving of an Oscar nomination, which he got.

Belfort is a smooth-talking stockbroker who starts small by selling penny stocks (stocks that trade at low prices a share) and soon becomes wildly rich.  He founds a company called Stratton Oakmont, which is all about get rich quick schemes.

The company also is unconventional in the sense that anything goes. For example, strippers are seen in the office building having sex with employees.

It’s clear that morality is not a high priority for Belfort and his employees.  Spending their unsuspecting clients’ money as lavishly and wildly as possible is the name of the game. Excess with both sex and drugs are a recurring theme in this movie.

Belfort’s right-hand man soon becomes Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill.  Azoff and Belfort both live in the same apartment complex and one day Azoff comes up to Belfort in a restaurant and asks if the Jaguar outside is Belfort’s car.

When Belfort says yes, Azoff says he wants to work for Belfort and then proceeds to quit his job. Hill’s performance, which has been overly praised, is lacking in any subtlety and depth. It is comparable to his work in “Superbad,” which I actually thought was a somewhat better performance. (Here he is very annoying and obnoxious with no redeeming qualities.) While not an outright bad performance, it is still one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen to receive an Oscar nomination.

The movie has a fascist quality to it, not unlike that of the film “Fight Club,” where the people who work for Belfort worship him highly and would be willing to do anything for him. Belfort’s charisma and the fact that he could get his employees instant financial and sexual gratification no doubt played a part in them succumbing so easily to him and not questioning anything along the way.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie resembles the real-life character he played in “Catch Me If You Can,” another con artist living a lavish lifestyle. Both men were trying to stay one step ahead of the law while being pursued by FBI agents. In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the FBI agent is played by Kyle Chandler, who is one of the few voices of reason in the film and also one of the few actors to play his role completely serious.

He gives a good, realistic performance and as Belfort’s behavior gets more and more outrageous and dishonest, we hope that the FBI agent can take him down. Even though DiCaprio’s character in “Catch Me If You Can” wasn’t being upfront with others, we couldn’t help rooting for him because of his likability and charm.

The women in this movie are all objectified and it’s hard to sympathize with most of the characters. Along with the FBI agent, Belfort’s dad played by director Rob Reiner, are probably the only characters we can sympathize with. The dad tries to point out to his son that he is living beyond his means and also that he should make an effort to be more ethical. He is willing to help out his son, though, when he gets in trouble with the law and we do see that he cares about him. Reiner gives a funny, somewhat over-the-top, effective performance.

There aren’t many, but nonetheless the attempts at dark comedy in the movie pretty much fall flat. For example, there are two scenes in the movie related to Quaaludes (recreational drugs) that stand out.

The first one involves Belfort (who is very high on drugs) having to crawl to his car late at night while at a country club, while the second one not much later, has Belfort and Azoff wrestling in Belfort’s kitchen over a phone cord.

The movie still holds your interest, though, because Belfort’s story is a fascinating one. That said, I am not sure that this would be worth seeing in the theater.

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