Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
While watching The Wolf of Wall Street, the latest film from directing icon Martin Scorsese, I remembered back to a few years ago when I first saw the Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job”. I was still relatively conservative at the time in my political views and was a staunch supporter of capitalism. This has since changed, but this is how I was at the time I first watched Inside Job. Watching the film, which compellingly tells the story of the 2008 economic collapse along with the greed of Wall Street, I began to be moved by the arguments presented and slowly started to view capitalism in a different, more negative light. The documentary accomplished this with statistics, charts, graphs and interviews. The Wolf of Wall Street tells this story with oral sex, cocaine snorting, mass orgies and little person tossing.
Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat I suppose.
The Wolf of Wall Street tells the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who begins as a drug free and idealistic stock broker but quickly descends into a sex and drugged fueled madness once he begins his own broker firm with friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). The story of Belfort is told is vulgar detail, with scene after scene in this three hour journey unloading one example after another of corruption and excess.
This is where the film will most likely divide audiences. Some will view the decadence as too much and over the top; some will view it as raunchy, entertaining but also a catalyst of proving the point of the film: greed can corrupt. I found myself somewhere in the middle. While the film is without a doubt Scorsese’s funniest and perhaps even most entertaining film, it is also repetitive. By the two-hour mark, when another scene of mass sex and drug use came across the screen, I shrugged. The continuous cycle the film finds itself in, is part of the point to be sure, as ultimately the point is that these horrible people participate in this behavior over and over and meet no consequence, however by a certain point, I get it. I didn’t need to see it again and again to understand the point any clearer. The film carries so many themes about greed, boy’s being boys, excess, but within the three hour run time of the film you kind of reach a point where the film seems like it is just going in circles instead of perhaps doing any real character studying or an arc. By running in place like the film does, it ends up running out its welcome pretty early on. In relation to these themes, I would say another film this year, Spring Breakers, actually made these points in a more compelling fashion. Wolf of Wall Street tells the story of greed causing debauchery while Spring Breakers shows how it is simply human nature and culture that causes one to seek debauchery, which in my mind is much more compelling.
However this is a Scorsese film, so the film looks slick, moves briskly (the film never felt like it was three hours long), and features fantastic performances from everyone involved. Jonah Hill continues showing there’s more to him than his Judd Apatow work, and supporting turns from Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie and Jon Bernthal are great as well. The star here of course is Leonardo DiCaprio though and this is perhaps his best performance to date. DiCaprio brings an infectious energy, a brilliant sense of comedy and his usual drama chops to the role.
In some ways, Wolf of Wall Street is a disappointment because it is “merely good” coming from the director of classic films such as Raging Bull or Goodfellas. The film runs in circles and tells its story in only a semi-compelling way. The film is still funny, still entertaining and still features great performances, but it is not the magnificent opus I was personally hoping for.