The Wolf of Wall Street
More movie than we know what to do with
For making a movie about the wrongdoings of overindulging and excessiveness, Martin Scorsese certainly didn’t take his own advice. Running just one minute short of three hours, there’s a lot of good movie here – excellent at parts, even. But there’s also a lot of sluggish middle part to slosh through. Scorsese is world-renowned for his direction, and his fifth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio certainly resulted in yet another strong performance from the actor – though, probably not strong enough to break his dry spell at the Oscars. Wolf won’t be the wolf everyone expected it to be during awards season, though that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of greatness here.
Those expecting a delightful tale of an animated wolf lost in the big city like me will be sorely disappointed. Kind of but not really based on the story of conman Jordan Belfort, portrayed by DiCaprio, the story follows his entrance onto Wall Street, in which Matthew McConaughey makes more of a cameo than an actual acting appearance as his stock broker mentor. He teaches Belfort about the primal world of stocks, which mainly consists of convincing people to invest more than they should, and surviving that stressful job with drugs and hookers. But just like that, in the only thing about the movie that can be described as ‘brief,’ the company crashes, and Belfort is out of a job.
No matter. Still hungry for the dishonest taste in wealth, Belfort takes the wisdom imparted on him from Wall Street and starts a new investment firm named Stratton Oakmont. His first business partner is Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a retail salesman married to his own cousin who heard about Belfort’s success on Wall Street. The two quickly rise to riches, expanding their business into a company as successful as the one Belfort previously worked for. They celebrate with one too many parties, all of which are shown with much elaboration, and at one Belfort meets the beautiful woman Naomi (Margot Robbie), whom he leaves his wife for.
Just when Belfort’s life of partying and scamming can’t seem to get any better, it all falls apart, along with the quality of the movie. The FBI targets Belfort for his illegal actions, and he loses whatever control he had over his many addictions. Belfort’s desperation to keep his wealth leads to some of the movie’s funnier scenes – for instance, a scene in which he, incapacitated by the delayed effects of a 30-year old drug called Lemmons, can’t figure out how to walk down a short flight of stairs, because “walking’s out” as an option. This is one of the cases in the film where our attention an in-depth, seemingly never-ending scene pays off.
Even though the movie can’t be consistent (which a three hour runtime, that’s almost a given), DiCaprio always delivers a strong performance. For his last three roles (Django Unchained, The Great Gatbsy, and this) he’s played some kind of wealthy but corrupt business tyrant, so his role may seem familiar, but this time we see his gradual growth into corruption rather than launching straight into his flawed character, allowing him to produce a much more nuanced performance. Hill infuses his unique brand of humor in with a more dramatic role than usual, and proves once again he’s more than just a run-of-the-mill comedic actor.
Even the great performances from DiCaprio and Hill get tired when they’re forced into repetitive sometimes truly boring scenarios. Scorsese’s lively direction leads to some overly long scenes of little impact, and after seeing this movie I’m pretty sure I’ll never trust a stockbroker again. The movie romps around with the supreme confidence of a Wall Street stockbroker, but at the end of the day, you’re not sure if you got what you invested for. If you were convinced to invest at all.