The 384th film I have seen in theaters…
This afternoon we ventured out to screen another of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. A few of the films disappeared after only one week in theaters! I am going to try to cram in Nebraska and Her at the earliest possible time, but we went out with ideas of seeing Gravity in 3D or perhaps August: Osage County. Instead, we checked out the latest Scorsese film.
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It is the 1980’s and young Jordan Belfort gets a job on Wall Street in hopes of becoming a Broker. After the Black Monday collapse, he discovers Penny Stocks and forms his own firm. He lies, cheats, abuses drugs and alcohol, and goes through an army of prostitutes on his rise to the top of Wall Street. The party is going just fine…until the FBI takes notice of his activities.
Leonardo DiCaprio will likely not win an Oscar for his role, that will probably go to Ejiofor, but he earned his spot on the list. DiCaprio walks the fine line between scumbag and hero remarkably well. The whole point of the Scorsese protagonist is that they are morally bankrupt and generally horrible people. From Liota in Goodfellas to DeNiro in Casino- they are MOST DEFINITELY “The bad guy”. Leo fit into this mold beautifully. He took a lot of heat for remarking that he found Belfort a likable and inspiring guy. That’s the reason Belfort could do what he did. He is likable. Leo nailed it.
Looking at the nominees for Supporting Actor, I cannot help but suspect that Jonah Hill is going to win. This was an awesome chance for him, and he brought his “A game”. Donny, the partner in crime who happens to be married to his 1st cousin and is possibly a homosexual was the real stand out of the other characters. Hill took this and made it his own. While it’s absolutely Leo’s show, Hill has earned his place and should rightfully find his way onto the A list for future projects.
Margot Robbie plays Naomi, Belfort’s wife. I initially thought she was just going to be “eye candy”, and she was definitely that, but she ended up being a great part of the drama. When Belfort implodes, it is his family- primarily Naomi which are used to show the destruction of this man’s life. Particularly once the arrests start coming, Robbie steps it up and shows her acting ability. A good performance.
Joe Bernthal (Walking Dead) appears as Brad, one of the men Belfort uses to hide his millions. I hope this guy continues his upward move into Hollywood. He was compelling enough to keep around for an extra season on Walking Dead, and it is clear he is quite the actor.
This film is blessed with a series of wonderful actors in smaller roles. Rob Reiner (All in the family) plays Belfort’s rage-machine father. The head of security at the firm, he tries, in vain, to reign in his son’s behavior. You can always count on Reiner for a great character.
Joanna Lumly (AbFab) appears as Naomi’s British Aunt Emma- instumental in smuggling money into Switzerland. She’s still got it.
In an all too brief appearance is Mattthew McConaughey as Belfort’s first boss. His insane drumming/chanting, as well as masturbation and cocaine snorting, inspire the young Belfort on the path to success.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist) is the corrupt Swiss Banker that hides Belfort’s millions. After initially stating that he had no interest in pursuing “Hollywood Stardom”, I am pleased to see him in this film. A great actor, I hope he builds his American audience on strong performances such as this.
This film is taking a lot of heat due to it’s portrayal of the excesses of Wall Street criminals. This outrage has a lot to do with the damage these sort of men did to our economy over the last 14 years. (Belfort was out of the picture by the dotcom bust and the derivatives implosions). It’s what this character represents. The fact that it’s all true is even more stinging. But let’s be real for a minute.
Most people DO want the life of fortune. This guy is no different than the other characters Scorsese has made a career of profiling. They are greedy, power hungry, and it leads to their downfall. What is tough about Belfort is that he is still rich and powerful. People wanted the film to show his life in ruins by the time the credits run, but that’s not reality. Belfort is making millions of dollars and is riding high as a motivational speaker and corporate trainer. Like it or not, this guy knows how to motivate employees to work hard for success. He understands capitalism in a way most of us never will. We hate and despise him, but deep down, VERY deep down in most of us…we want to be him.