Give me a combination of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and I am hooked. Add to that dollops of Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin and we have a cocktail thats headier than most.
The Wolf of Wall Street takes us on a joyride through the world of Wall Street, New York in the 80’s and 90’s. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a young man who enters the stock market melee in the 80’s, at the impressionable age of 22. While being tossed around within the echelons of a well known broking firm he catches the eye of Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey). The senior broker takes Jordan under his wing and gives him some profound advise about how to survive Wall Street, aided by critical resources like cocaine and hookers. However, Jordan’s fledgling career as a stock broker takes a beating when he loses his job after Black Monday (October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed). A despondent Jordan is about to look for an alternative career when his wife finds a recruitment advertisement for Investor Center, a stockbroking firm in Long Island. To his dismay Jordan finds that the company deals only in ‘penny stocks’ of companies whose prices are too low to be traded in the national exchange.
Though quite a slide from someone who wanted to make his fortune on Wall Street, Jordan does not let the scenario get him down. He uses his superlative persuasive powers and selling skills to make a mini fortune in penny stocks before deciding to branch of on his own with a bunch of misfits who he trains to become super sales people. The story traces the journey of Jordan Belfort and his band of boys through extreme highs and lows. From their lifestyles, hedonistic to the extreme; the obscene display of wealth and what it can buy; no-holds-barred language; prolific use of cocaine and other drugs to the FBI investigation and unravelling of Jordan’s carefully built fiefdom, the narrative is gripping and comic when you least expect it.
Leonardo DiCaprio pulls off the role of a lifetime in a way that only he can. Always an extremely energetic and physical actor, he outdoes himself in a particular sequence which I would not like to describe since it would take away from actually watching the film. Matthew McConaughey in a small but significant role makes an impact as does Jean Dujardin who is fast becoming Hollywood’s favourite import after Javier Bardem. Margot Robbie looks gorgeous and gives a competent performance as doesKyle Chandler, but the supporting characters are almost overshadowed every time Jonah Hill comes on screen. His portrayal of the well meaning but bumbling and irascible Donnie Azoff, the overweight furniture salesman who becomes Jordan’s best friend, confidante and second-in-command, is laudable.
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio clearly enjoyed making this film. Described as a ‘a nearly three-hour-long orgy of money, sex and drugs’ and possibly ‘the sweariest movie in Hollywood history, with a record 506 F-words’; their fifth venture together pushes every boundary possible. Criticized by a section of viewers who believe that the film glorifies a lot of unsavoury practices, it remains the New York Times Critics Pick of the week. I was glad that the Indian Censor Board did not do their usual hatchet job on the film (I think Mr. Scorcese had something to do with that!) and the audience can enjoy the sometimes stomach churning Bacchanalia….undiluted. Starting my year with this film has raised the bar rather high for the ones to follow. Go watch it if you have not. Highly avoidable if you are prudish and conservative.
Copyright © Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa January 2014
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