Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street. Excess in Everything.

I’m a normal guy. I don’t get invited to pre-screenings and I don’t know a single actor on a personal or professional basis. I write movie reviews because I like to, not because I feel my word is anything close to gospel or because I think you should care. (Although, I would really appreciate a minute of your time, and if you can sit through three hours of Scorsese, you could of course read a couple hundred words by me, right?)

I loved The Wolf of Wall Street. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me. I love Leo and love Scorsese and love McConaughey, and I think it’s fair to say everyone loves whatever persona or size Jonah Hill will take on for his next movie. You certainly have to admire his range, and Hill really is the best of a host of superb actors in Scorsese’s latest epic. His character is the chief comedic element in the entire romp, a parody on nearly everyone who fancies himself better than the sort of bottle glasses-wearing, fake-teeth chomping guy he is. Hill smokes crack in the movie and he’s overweight and fumbly. Remind you of anyone, Toronto?

DiCaprio is right at home as the morally broke broker Belfort, who goes from a mouse to a monster in the film’s sweeping first hour. There’s the Pan-Am girl – Margot Robbie – who has guaranteed herself a fine career and an incoming pile of scripts for her portrayal of Naomi (Insert Last Name Here), Belfort’s drop-dead gorgeous mistress-turned-second wife. There’s Cristin Milioti, who plays Belfort’s first wife a lot like Karen from Goodfellas. Milioti, like Robbie, has ensured herself steady employment with her bit in Wolf and her role as Ted’s wife on How I Met Your Mother. She’s so special, we had to wait nine seasons to see her. 2012’s Best Actor Jean Dujardin makes a cameo as the Swiss banker who escapes any sort of permanent persecution, and he’s pretty darn great, too. No surprises, really.

And there’s Kyle Chandler. He plays the FBI golden boy who takes Belfort down, and does so quite easily. I mean, really, he didn’t have to do a lot. He just had to give Belfort a mic. But Chandler’s excellence as the crusading cop is built on the same simplicity – don’t play the part Leo’s playing, just play the part you need to. And Chandler is terrifically suited for his part, just like he was terrifically suited to play Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights.

DiCaprio will win Best Actor. Will it be totally earned? In some way. He has a lot of very fine scenes squished into essentially three hours of screen time, and it’s pretty damn hard to make every minute of 180 minutes pure gold. But he comes close, and he deserves a statue one of these days, certainly after he was robbed last year of even a nomination for Django Unchained and after a career spent trying to distance himself from the Titanic teen beat idol he once was.

So there, I’ve covered the acting. Now for the movie.

Again, I loved it, but I went in wanting to love it. I know others will hate it, and the reasons why won’t be surprising.

1) They’ll hate it because they think it glorifies that lifestyle. It does, but only because it shines a light on it. It’s also completely scathing and would be slanderous if it wasn’t true, or close to true. It’s an epic black comedy, a parody up there in its absurdity with A Modest Proposal. It rips the whole ship apart and leaves it in splinters on the floor, and you know the only ones who will watch this and still want Belfort’s lifestyle or lack of any decency are the ones who will get arrested in their own time anyway.

2) They’ll hate it because they can’t handle it. Oh, they’ll think they can, because they saw the trailer and thought it looked outrageous and hilarious and all that. But they can’t actually handle it. They’ll think there’s too much sex, too many drugs, and too many f-bombs. But so what? This is a real movie that actually dives into the mind of many, many people. It dives into my mind, too, because I think some sick, sick stuff and I’m very aware that other people don’t. I think about sex all the time.

At least we have a movie here that’s unafraid to jump into deep waters and figure it out. If you’re the kind of person who gets sea sick over it, maybe you should stick to land.

3) They’ll think it’s too long. Fair enough. It is long. It’s about three hours. But it’s not bloated. Long isn’t bad. Bloated is bad. Last year, we had Les Miserables and The Hobbit and Lincoln. All were as long and none were as good as The Wolf of Wall Street. You’ll probably disagree with me on that, but that’s the beauty of movies… we don’t have to agree, and that’s exactly why The Wolf was made.

I’ve read plenty of reviews on the movie, most of them before I watched the thing on Boxing Day. I agreed with almost none of them.

did think the drugs were referred to a little too heavily and the dialogue around them was cheesy, although I fault Belfort’s poor writing (the movies was based on his own memoirs) for that and not Scorsese’s directing or Leo’s acting.

The sex scenes, to me, were incredible. They were incredible because they offered up glimpses so disgusting and excess so beyond belief, and this is 2013… we’re not supposed to be shocked anymore. Even the first scene with Leo hooks up with Robbie, and she exits her bulky sliding-door bedroom with nothing on – I mean, nothing – you heard gasps from wall-to-wall in the Riverport Silvercity. Or, coughs.

What can I say? She’s got a nice face.

There’s even a scene – toward the end of the movie – where Leo punches her in the stomach, and the whole theatre made that sound you make whenever you set a woman hit on screen: Oomph”.

You can feel her pain because it’s just to in front of you. Because you just don’t do that.

Somehow, after three hours of nonstop awfulness and after millions of dollars has been swindled, stolen, and snorted, that punch to his wife’s stomach was the worst.

It was like seeing someone touch their eyeball or finding another person’s hair on your tongue.

It was just way too real.