Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let's Make Lots of Money

The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey
Released: December 25, 2013

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to 12 Years a Slave)
Best Director - Martin Scorsese (lost to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity)
Best Actor - Leonardo DiCaprio (lost to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Supporting Actor - Jonah Hill (lost to Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Terence Winter (lost to John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave)

My city's newspaper movie reviewer liked this movie, but he commented that he saw a few walkouts and the article got a few feedback letters from readers saying they walked out of the theater. Now I have seen a few movies in the theater I wish I had walked out on mainly because they were long and boring. This movie is long (three hours) but it is not boring. But I'm doubting its the length that made those people walk out. This movie is not for everyone. Let's just say it earns its R rating. There is plenty of vulgar language, nudity, and drug use. If people are going to be bothered by that, then they shouldn't see an R rated movie about a self-centered rich guy! What are they expecting?!

Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) adopts the Gordon Gekko motto of "Greed is good" and makes riches as a stockbroker earning something like $49 million a year. I had never heard of this Belfort character and didn't realize he was a real person until this movie came out. I enjoyed DiCaprio's performance of him, but would not like him if I ever met him in real life. He was a bit of a smug jerk, but I suppose most rich people are smug jerks...I would probably be a smug jerk if I were rich! The film breaks the fourth wall with Belfort talking to the audience. I love the bit at the beginning where he's  walking out of his mansion, talking to the camera as he sips on a mimosa and tosses the glass flute and the rest of the unfinished drink in a bush behind him. I thought little moments like those were great.

Belfort tells the audience that that he made $49 million last year, but it pissed him off because "it was just 3 shy of a million a week." Now the line delivery is hilarious, I won't deny that, but seriously? If you're complaining that you're not making a million a week, you really need a tall glass of STFU. I would be happy if I made one percent of what he made!

Matthew McConaughey has a small cameo as the executive who takes a young Belfort under his wing and molds him into the stockbroker he will eventually become. When he is forced to quit his job because of Black Monday, Belfort, desperate for anything, takes a job at a small Long Island firm that sells penny stocks. He impresses the crew there with his charming salesman tactics...he was someone who could sell ice to an eskimo. There's a great scene where he's making a big sell to some unassuming schmuck and everyone is gathered around him as he's making the deal. Belfort teaches the others how to scam people out of their money and soon they are lucrative and Belfort starts his own firm called Stratton Oakmont where they make even more money...because now they're conning rich people into paying lots of money for worthless stocks instead of average Joes. One of the people who Belfort takes under his own wing is Donnie (Jonah Hill), this socially awkward weird guy who lives in the same building as Belfort but notices that Belfort drives a nice car and wants to know what he does.

Everyday is a party and spectacle at Stratton Oakmont. They bring in strippers, monkeys, marching bands, bet people to shave their heads, and don't forget the drugs. There were a lot of people who worked there and they all seemed to be making millions of dollars which I didn't really get. How are all these people making so much money? Wouldn't Belfort want all that money? I have no idea how stockbroker firms work anyway...which is probably why I'm not rich! There's an amusing scene where Belfort's dad (Rob Reiner), who manages the firm's expenses yells at Belfort for spending thousands of dollars on a business meeting dinner.

Before he acquired his riches, Belfort was married to a woman named Theresa. Having already seen his future, you know they do not stay together because he's married to a blonde bombshell. I figured he was going to dump Theresa as soon as he started raking in the dough, but that's not the case. He meets Naomi, the blonde (Margot Robbie) and cheats on his wife with her. His wife catches them together and they get a divorce. I think he does feel bad for hurting his wife, but after five seconds he realizes he has a more beautiful woman and marries her...then starts cheating on Naomi!

If there's anything that Belfort loves more than women (well, then besides his money), it's his drugs. He is a hard core drug user and one of the most memorable scenes involves him and Donnie taking something called lemons which is a quaalude that doesn't exist on the market anymore. They both take one, but after thirty minutes (and watching an entire episode of Family Matters without laughing), they decide the drugs have lost their effect and take a second one...and after that they take a third! Well, turns out these drugs need 90 minutes to kick in...which seems like an awful long time to wait! Or maybe it was 60 minutes, I don't remember...that's still a long time. Belfort gets a call from his dad telling him to use a different phone because the feds (led by Kyle Chandler) are onto his scam and have tapped his phone. He drives to the country club in his Lamborghini and the drugs don't kick in until he's talking to his dad on the pay phone and suddenly can't speak and looses all function of his muscles. He wants to get home quickly to warn Donnie and his wife and thus begins a hilarious segment of him having to crawl down stairs and into his car. I heard this scene lasts about 25 minutes! It does go on for awhile, but I guess since I was so entertained by it, it didn't seem that long to me. I felt a little unsure whether I should by laughing or not because here was this guy who was totally impaired by drugs and could have killed someone by getting into the car. Luckily he didn't. In fact, he's so out of it, he only remembers driving very slowly and not hitting a thing and his car being in perfect shape, when in fact, later a police man comes to give him a ticket for reckless driving and we see his car as being totaled and wrecked beyond ruin.

I knew that scene was played for laughs when later we get a very serious scene involving Naomi telling Jordan she wants a divorce and he tells her he's not going to take his children away from him (I didn't know why he said "children" when I think they only had one daughter...?) and he then attempts to kidnap his daughter and nearly kills both of them when he almost crashes his car.

Eventually Jordan's scam catches up with him and he is caught by the FBI (while filming an infomercial, no less) and is sentenced to two years in prison. With all his extravagant things, Belfort didn't do a very good job of hiding his money from the IRS...even though he tried to put it in a Swiss Bank (although that did not go over very well), but I couldn't really blame him. If I had all that money, I would want to buy nice things too...even if that money was obtained illegally! I think that would be anyone's first impulse. Look at poor Walter White: he had enough money to last a lifetime (several lifetimes!) but the only things he ever bought with it was a nice bottle of champagne and a new car for his son. At least his money will go to his kids under the disguise of rich benefactors. But that would suck to have all that money and never get to spend it! So I can't blame Belfort for going a little crazy with it. So don't obtain money illegally!

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