This week on At the Movies, Peter Travers highlights a real beast of a film, The Wolf of Wall Street. It's the latest from one of America's greatest living directors, Martin Scorsese, and stars one of the finest actors out there, Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a hotshot trader who starts at the bottom of the Wall Street totem poll and ends up making millions selling worthless stocks. Based on a book written by the real-life Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street is a three-hour opus, but don't let the lengthy runtime put you off: anchored by a stunning performance from DiCaprio, Travers says the movie was "made by people who know what they were doing. Scorsese gives an energy that just pumps through every scene in this movie."
As Travers suggests, The Wolf of Wall Street marks the end of a trilogy that the director started with Goodfellas and continued with Casino: "All are about chasing the money," he says, adding with a chuckle that the murderers in Goodfellas might be a bit more appealing than the awful Wall St. tycoons. Throughout the movies, these guys blow their cash on everything under the sun, wiping out any twinge of self-consciousness with jokes, expensive getaways, drugs (especially quaaludes), hookers and yachts.
"Does Scorsese say you should love these people? Is that what it's about?" asks Travers. "Of course not. He's looking at the American character; he's looking at us all." Even after he goes to prison for a few years, Belfort still comes out rich and goes into motivational speaking, asking his hungry students if they could sell him just a pen. They clamor to be taught how to become as wealthy as him, and how to become as corrupt.
"It is hilarious, it is scathing, it is a picture of America that offers no sentiment," Travers says. "Scorsese tells the truth about America, and if you can take it, boy do you get it in The Wolf of Wall Street."