‘The Wolf of Wall Street’: Leonardo DiCaprio on the prowl
A 3.5-star review of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as an unscrupulous New York stockbroker.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin. Directed by Martin Scorsese, from a screenplay by Terence Winter, based on the book by Jordan Belfort. 179 minutes. Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence. Several theaters.
Twice this year, Leonardo DiCaprio has played a man gilded by riches. In Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” he was all ’20s glamour and wistful romantic yearning. Now, in Martin Scorsese’s wickedly watchable “The Wolf of Wall Street,” set in the late 1980s and ’90s, the clothes aren’t all that different (double-breasted suits were having a moment, in both eras), but the performance is entirely changed. As Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who spent years cheerfully defrauding investors, DiCaprio is positively reptilian; he spits out his lines with a nasty glee. You’re both horrified and enchanted by this creature — a monster in Armani.
Marking the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is based on Belfort’s memoir of his years in shady-but-wildly-lucrative finance — and if it’s at all accurate, you wonder how anyone in that field survived the ’90s intact. Belfort, whose firm Stratton Oakmont rode high in the ’90s on inflated hopes and unadulterated greed, lived on a roller-coaster of drugs, prostitutes, drugs, fast cars, drugs, boats and more drugs. The parties at the company look like less-polite Roman orgies, and Scorsese captures the scene in all its sweaty excess. (There’s a sign in a company bathroom, asking employees to refrain from sexual activity there during work hours. It’s ignored.)
You won’t fall in love with anyone in this movie (except maybe Cristin Milioti, touchingly sweet in a few scenes as Jordan’s roadkill first wife), but its three hours zip by as quickly as Jordan makes money. Jonah Hill, with weirdly glowing teeth, is effective as Belfort’s even-more-amoral wingman; newcomer Margot Robbie finds some poignancy in the bombshell second wife; and Rob Reiner bellows agreeably through the role of Jordan’s father. But it’s DiCaprio’s movie, whether he’s crawling — no, sliding — to his car after a supercharged quaalude left his legs not working (“Walking’s out. OK, what else is there?” he asks himself) or slurring the word “Porsche” like it’s a caress. Posed on his yacht’s deck as if he was born there, he notes that when you own the kind of boat that a Bond villain might, “sometimes you have to play the part.”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org