Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolfie! Wolfie! Wolfie! Wolfie!! Woohoo!

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) simplifies the uberpaced life on the wall street by showing how to create a pump-and-dump “trading” business  with a bunch of no-gooders, and in the process, snorting his and many others’ way to a big money, decadent lifestyles, wine women drugs and glory.

The story of Jordan Belfort is out there, in his own words, for those who want to read it. The penny-stock-broker-swindler-sales-guru, has been the subject of two movies now, and is the inspiration for many, I’d think. His was a life of excesses. And hence, it makes for great storytelling. The exaggerated sex, drugs and money – its all interesting. Its an anti-hero, and like most sinful guilty pleasures, there is joy in rooting for the perceived villain who seems to be winning all the time. In a way, Belfort represents our own deeper darker desires.

Back to the movie, the stamp of Scorcese is there, and the movie is undeniably funny almost all throughout. The narration in some of the serious moments of movie can make you fall off the chair, especially scenes like the one where Jordan crawls to his car after ODing on Lemmons 714. The cast is super-awesome, with Donnie (Jonah Hill) worth a million bucks, and Max Belfort, Brad, Rugrat and others adding to almost every scene’s worth. Matthew McConaughey in a short cameo is great fun.

DiCaprio pulls off another oscar-nomination-worthy performance. Though, I often got a feeling of a repeat. A feeling that I had seen this act before. That over-emphasized dialogue delivery, those expressions. I didn’t see anything new.

The best thing about the movie is the clarity with which each of the part-characters is developed. You can’t but not notice how the decadent soullessness of Jordan and Donnie is different from that of others like Rugrat, Pinhead, Chester and Brad.

The downer of the movie is its length. At a full 3 hours, with about 150 minutes of drugs, profanity, and zoned out conversations, there are several times when the movie seems to be stretching thin. The dragged out relationship with Naomi, the multiple identical looking scenes on the trading floor, etc. slow the movie down. There is also an overdose of the overdose. The drugs seem to be the central prop running throughout the movie. Naomi could have been a good counterfoil, but she is not.

The chopped off scenes might have made me understand the movie a little differently, but nevertheless. Wolfie is shameless fun to watch, and Belfort is that poster that you’d want to but will never put on the wall.

I’d go with a 4 on 5 for this one.

 

 

Django Unchained… Great, but not quite Awesome

Dj2Why is Chritoph Waltz nominated for best supporting actor. Isn’t he the lead actor? Isn’t he the most noticeable presence in Django? Isn’t he the one that makes Django a finer film than it is?

Django Unchained starts with the freeing up of Django (Jamie Fox) by Schultz (Waltz), goes on to explain what Schultz is doing, and the eventual Django-Schultz relationship that leads them to the search of Broomhilda, Django’s wife sold as a slave to Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio). Stephens (Samuel Jackson), the slaver/butler of Candie spoils the party for Django, but Django does get unchained.

At its heart, Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave searching for his wife with the help of a bounty hunter, its a stark take on the slave-master relationship, a western style movie. Like most other Quentin Tarantino movies, the devil in the details is what you come to admire. Scenes full of great screen chemistry and extremely intelligent dialogues, a brilliant screenplay, and some over-the-top but exhilarating performances. DJ3
Does it work this time? The style, the blood and gore, the flourishes, the slow sunsets, and the larger than their surrounding pivotal characters of the movie are all there. Yet, the movie does not measure up to what fans like me have come to expect of QT. Or, rather, it measures up, but does not surpass the standards that have already been set. The movie keeps you glued, but not in the way Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds or Kill Bill does. For the QT haters, the movie might be an argument why he is over-hyped.

Waltz’s Schultz owns the movie, even though he is stylistically not very different from Col. Landa of Inglorious. But his charisma supercedes everything else in the movie. Jamie Foxx’s Django is good. Again. But not so good that you remember him long after it’s over. I personally did not like Dicaprio as much here. To the extent that I found his style and intonation inconsistent over the movie. In a rather short role, Samuel Jackson is stand out brilliant (what’s new about that one, you may ask). The slave who cDJ4annot imagine a slave being a free man and being accorded the respect of a free man, his sharp eye that catches the details (like the one of a good butler), and his unwavering loyalty to Candie. In fact, the two people/ characters you remember and think about long after the movie are Schultz and Stephen. Tarantino makes a guest appearance as well and blows himself up. I guess he was having a blast making this one!

Dj1There are three specific scenes that I loved – the first scene where Waltz comes in on a cart looking for Django, the scene where Django and Schultz are having a heart to heart conversation and the deal is struck, and the scene where Django and Schultz meet Candie the first time. Oh and you can add the scene of negotiation that happens later as well. Supremely well crafted scenes.

The most awesome thing about the movie, however, is the soundtrack. Sheer brilliance. It’s western. Its inspired. And its thematic. There are several points in the movie where the soundtrack takes the movie to a different level altogether. It starts in a very The Good, The Bad and The Ugly way, but has the texture of a war film, and the tempo of a period drama.

Tarantino fans – You are going to watch it anyway. Lets again have cerebral debates about every scene. But do tell me if you think its in the expected league or not, honestly and without fanboyism.

This is a clear 4 on 5. I am not yet at decimal points, but otherwise its not quite a 4.5, but higher than 4 movie 😉

And yeah, the D is silent.

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