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Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a magnificent performance in a bloated, but impressive American tragedy.

The Wolf of Wall Street Leonardo DiCaprio

Dear Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio,

Dude, what the fuck?

I recently had the pleasure of sitting through The Wolf of Wall Street, which stars you as the stock market racketeer and professional hedonist Jordan Belfort, a real-life scoundrel whose life story is so implausibly lavish that he makes The Great Gatsby look like the The Vaguely Disappointing Gatsby.

The film, as you are no doubt aware, was directed by Martin Scorsese. (You know him… he was the guy directing you.) Typical of a Martin Scorsese joint, it is a handsomely photographed epic of American ambition and challenged bromance. You play a formally idealistic young stockbroker seduced to the dark side by ethical compromise and sexy parties, who tragically defines himself by his work and – more to the point – all the egregious, largely illegal financial windfalls he receives as an apparent reward for his seedy efforts. Over time, his dedication to his work and co-workers is challenged, and in those dark happy hours of the soul, the tacky asshole Mr. Belfort is sadly found wanting.

The Wolf of Wall Street Cast

This, I did expect of you. For you, Mr. DiCaprio, are one of the most consistently impressive performers of our modern age, churning out one heartrending, powerful and technically impeccable dramatic performance after another. Did you see Django Unchained? Dude, you ruled in that.

But what I was shocked to discover, as The Wolf of Wall Street played on (and on, and on… the movie is three hours long and hardly free of pacing issues), is that you are also a gifted comedian. Your timing? Lip-smackingly good. Your physical control? Let’s just say that there’s a scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where you come face-to-face with a tiny flight of stairs, in which you are utterly annihilated by those stairs. The overwhelming battle of wills between a drugged up Jordan Belfort and the simplest mechanism in the history of mankind becomes a testament to hilarity worthy of comparison to Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and the collective missteps of a thousand blackout drunk college freshpersons. It’s one for the ages.

Wolf of Wall Street

Which leads me to the essential crux of my letter. Sir, why the hell have you been holding out on us? If I may be so bold, I think you have missed your calling. The citizens of America - nay, the world - have been forced to settle for the comedic stylings of Adam Sandler, Kevin James and (god help us) Nick Swardson for years. Meanwhile, you’ve been living the high life, acting in one high-profile Oscar contender after another. That is very, very selfish of you. The world of broad comedy is in desperate need of Leonardo DiCaprio, whose acrobatic limbs found the most unlikely way to open a Lamborghini door in recent, if any, memory.

This is not to say that your dramatic efforts have gone unappreciated. I am certain I speak for all of us when I say that The Wolf of Wall Street is also an impressive, epic ode to decadence that understands the appeal of hedonism, explaining without ever justifying the psychotic joke that is the current economic system. As the leading man in a formidable ensemble cast, held aloft by an intelligent screenplay and some whirling dervish direction courtesy of that gentleman Mr. Scorsese, you deliver the goods and we all thank you for it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

But dude, seriously, what the fuck? You’ve just proven yourself to be a brilliant physical and character-driven comedian, finding within yourself the exorbitant glee of a hero with no impulse control, tempered with just enough self-effacement to make us not entirely hate him for it. You found the tiny tics that prove there’s a real human being underneath what might otherwise have been a shallow stereotype; a shallow human being, sure, but not a stereotype. One with reasons for his limited philosophical ambition and unsurpassed financial and social greed. You’ve isolated the soul of a comic caricature and delivered a performance that is at once your funniest and also one of your most deeply layered.

Meanwhile, Mr. Adam Sandler is burping, farting and sneezing at the same time in Grown Ups 2, with nary a soul to be found. The world of broad comedy desperately needs you, Mr. DiCaprio. You can still find time to mire yourself in the darkest quags of the human experience in your off-hours, but for the love of God, or Yahweh, or whatever, rescue us from the mediocrity – and that’s being very kind – of our other contemporary broad comedians, because you… sir… again, have the goods. And nobody else seems to.

Sincerely,
William Bibbiani (“Bibbs”)

P.S. Dude, remember when you were in Critters 3? That shit was awesome.

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William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.

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