The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) (R)
"The Wolf of Wall Street" isn't a movie about over-indulgence, which many might say that it is. Nor is it about greed, opulence and gratuitousness. Instead, the film is over-indulgence. It fuses the gap between creation and commentary and therein lies its biggest problem.
The movie tells the operatic true story of Jordan Belfont, a man who played with stocks and got his chops busted as a result. You know how the story is going to end as soon as you step into the theater—Scorsese has done it so many times before, it would be shocking if something new happens. But nothing new happens, yet this film is still shocking. We can all tell what the greed, the sex, the drugs, and the moneymoneymoney will do to poor Jordan's life. There's going to be a downward spiral into complete and utter filth and Belfont will be left in tact, to sort out his life.
Surprise! That's exactly what happens...this much is even revealed in the trailer.
Yet how we get there is supposed to make up for the rest of the lengthy time we spend in the theater, not trying to figure out the plot.
Scorsese, as with most of his famous works, gives us here a character study, We observe the life of Jordan Belfont as he rises from rags to riches. We see how money corrupts him...and then we see it again. Once we think we've seen every possible way that money and greed can screw up a person's life...guess again.
Belfont (Leonardo DiCaprio) wanted to be a millionaire. He's telling us his story from a future self, one that's already seen his fare share of hundred dollar bills. In fact, the movie's opening gives us a chaotic scene in which the stockbrokers burn away their time and money with a cruel game—they throw little people at a huge target with a dollar sign as the bullseye.
Then we go back to see how Belfont came to this point in his sad, sad life. We see him as a successful broker, lower than pond scum. He is told just to sell and close...he's yelled at much like Alec Baldwin yells in a scene from "Glengarry Glen Ross". His boss, played by the up-coming go-to actor Matthew McConaughey, takes him under his wings and tells him the secret to being successful. You want to hear it? Be greedy, be very greedy, don't let other people take your money. Be ruthless, be good at your job.
So Jordan takes this advice to heart and discovers penny stocks which gives him a %50 commission. He starts his own firm and hires losers to run it, then he trains them to speak like him. Soon they're all conning very rich people into throwing their money away...right into Jordan's pocket. He becomes so stinking rich that he has no idea what to do with the money he's got...but one thing's for sure, he doesn't want to lose it.
A drug and sex addict, the poster child for alcoholism, Jordan slowly slips into paranoia and complete insanity, driven by the idea of the next sale...the next commission....the next.
Married to a loyal and loving wife, Jordan gets wooed by the flawless Naomi, a woman who likes a big ring on her finger. I'm not saying she's a gold-digger...but hey, she's a total gold-digger.
He leaves his wife, marries Naomi, all the time becoming more and more addicted to the drugs he's on. Cocaine, meth, morphine, heroin, who cares?
He wants to be famous, he becomes famous, he's never satisfied with it.
In the trailer for "The Wolf of Wall Street", the line is read "More is never enough"...indeed that's very true with this movie. We get the point after a solid hour of the film—this first hour gives you a clue of how smutty and sleazy Jordan is: the first few scenes we get talks about how often a character indulges in self-pleasure, then we get full-frontal nudity, and grotesque sexual talks...you should expect nothing less. Yet for a film about more, this fits perfectly...it's about more and it is more. You can't criticize the horrid acts of sexual degradation seen on screen, because that's what the movie is about.
Still, the movie would have been fine at half its length. We get the point: greed is bad and Jordan is in over his head. What did that extra hour and a half have to do with anything?...I don't know
It seems like this film is just Scorsese showing off.
Jonah Hill appears as Jordan's trusty sidekick, Donnie. He gives a wonderfully wicked performance.
After so many sex scenes, so many scenes in which cocaine gets shot up a person's nose, so many scenes that involve nefarious activity, it all sort of blends together.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" is purposely played out like a hot mess...and it is one.
The movie is supposed to make you enraged and disgusted, so it's a success...but one that drags on far too long.
It over-plays its card with scenes like two characters discussing pubic hair through the decades.
Then there's the swearing. "The Wolf of Wall Street" has just set the record for most swearing in a movie. This is not the reason that the movie should be NC-17, those reasons are already somewhat listed.
Scorsese seems desperate to infuse a rock-psychedelia into his picture. The result is an often not funny and disjointed film.
I will give it this, the film features two very strong performances from DiCaprio and Hill, they carry the film farther than its source material does. They are very good in the movie.
Some will criticize the criticizer by saying that being shocked isn't a good enough reason...indeed, they are right. What isn't good about the movie is how long it is and how much we don't gain from those extra minutes on screen. We all got the point after thirty minutes, three hours just seems a little excessive.
Every frame of the film stinks with a greedy purpose. Scorsese's film is about the perils of greed; yet the studio wants to get you into the theater so isn't it already counterproductive?
Posted by Micah Jones