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The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street
Release date: January 3, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Cristin Milioti, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, Kenneth Choi, P. J. Byrne, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Joanna Lumley

Wall Street spells exuberance for some, and misery for some. Not necessarily forming mutually exclusive entities. The Wolf of Wall Street bears similarity in structure with Scorsese’s own Goodfellas and Casino, a formula so potent it won’t let your mind wander outside the ostentatious bounds of its irreverent characters.

Michael Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) is Jordan Belfort’s first employer. He gives him the sound advice of jerking off at least twice a day to cope up with the numbers (In my opinion, everyone should try doing it) He also suggests he loads up on cocaine and hookers. Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) starts picking up traits of his manic boss and thus the transformation of a soft-spoken Jewish begins.

Black Monday hits hard and Belfort ends up losing his job in a month. On a chance meeting with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and a few funny anecdotes later, they recruit Belfort’s friends who have been selling marijuana into stockbroking positions. Belfort teaches them the tricks and they start picking up on the bullshit factor and a million dollar firm is floated. They evolve from a shady boiler room to an office on Wall Street. The money flowing in leaves the novice ‘stockbrokers’ are left dumbfounded.

Their pinksheet stocks are a hit and they keep taking hits, drags, lines and hooker fucks almost every time they sell a share. The initial buildup of Jordan’s character appears a tad cheesy, but it doesn’t get slotted. The cocaine snorts inject the adrenaline just before each of his motivational speeches to his staff. The money laundering and all other associated crimes are more or less victim-less. Which means no one is actually shown suffering because of their sham. The boring technicalities of the financial markets are left out smartly, in favor of superbly hilarious drunken/drug-induced/sexual stupors.

The non-fictitious Jordan Belfort’s escapades and scams are presented with an element of fiction. The names of his close associates and wives have been altered, probably just to avoid any defamation lawsuits after the film’s release. (That’s just a rough assumption) Then there are unabashed lines like, “Her pussy was like heroin.”, When you’re sailing a boat built for a Bond villain you’ve got to play the part.”; I laughed, and a lot. It’s a polite “Fuck you” to the idealistic way of living.

The repetitive pattern of the course is avoided by strong writing. For example, when Donnie fucks up one time (Of course I am using the word ‘fuck’ liberally in this review) and he tries to get Jordan high before the news reaches him from outside, Terence Winter turns a possible death-scare into insurmountable comedy. Modern Popeye, the stockbroker man is brilliant. But the film has a foreseeable end, and you are just left waiting for the court of justice’s execution.

Stratton Oakmont, Belfort’s company reaches an unknown conclusion, and when the “chickens come home to roost” the screenplay, acting and direction emerge individually stronger than the film in entirety. The ensemble cast is not just strong in their performances, even their parts have meat in them. The fourth wall breaking isn’t much of a hassle, but the imaginary dialogue between Jean-Jacques Saurel, the Swiss banker played by Jean Dujardin and Belfort is incredibly done.

Belfort gets the title of “wolf” from a magazine interview, and the arc shows him as a wolf. He wants to be the strutting lion, and yet gets subdued by the end. The Wolf of Wall Street is outrageously and unbelievably enjoyable, not just popcorn fluff. No overdrawn moral outtakes here.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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