If there’s ever a movie to blame for the go to representation of the passage of time being changing facial hair and awful fashion over a soundtrack of that era’s hit songs it is Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas. Every movie that spanned the ’60’s to the ’80’s that came after it from the good (Boogie Nights, Forrest Gump) to the horrid (Blow, The Iceman) followed that same formula where we know it is 1968 because the guys have long hair and The Rolling Stones are on the radio while everyone’s smoking pot to it being 1977 because everyone has a fu manchu that is doing coke and disco dancing to the Bee Gees.
So you can’t blame Scorcese too much for going back to the well with The Wolf of Wall Street that he himself dug years earlier. He stretches out Goodfellas to three hours replaces the violence with sex and the danger with drugs. The crime is now of the white collar variety, but Leonardo DiCapprio is basically Ray Liotta. He narrates how he went from an ambitious, young, working pup to the king of the world to ratting out his friends to avoid prison. Matthew McConaughey is Robert DeNiro as the celebrity mentor into the dark side and Jonah Hill is Joe Pesci, the pint sized sidekick who takes our protagonist’s worst habits to another level of depravity. If you wondered how Jonah Hill translates to a Scorcese movie, stop wondering and rather ponder on how Scorcese translates to a Jonah Hill movie.
For The Wolf of Wall Street is a straight up comedy, of the bromance school. To see it in any other light is to invite disappointment. There is no hidden symbolism in how we are all sinners and slaves to the almighty dollar in watching the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort from hungry stock broker to multimillionaire con man. The excess is too great for the audience to identify with the protagonist in any serious way. But the movie’s comedy should be embraced. With the exception of maybe Iron Man 3, this is by far the funniest movie of the year. A good half hour could have been snipped from it’s running time, but there are plenty of classic comedy scenes that will be laughed about for years most of which involve drug abuse from crack to Quaaludes.
While Scorcese’s gangster movies have been criticized for glamorizing violence, the same could be said for The Wolf of Wall Street’s depiction of drugs. Never had I seen overdosing, slurring, and intoxicated driving look as fun as in this movie.