The Wolf of Wall Street Reviews
Fantastic film! Leo was phenomenal as always! It was quite long so it's probably one I'll only watch once but it was very entertaining with a lot of laugh out loud moments!
GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) The Wolf of Wall Street is based on true events - it makes me pine for the 90s.
SCOTT: The Wolf of Wall Street opens with young Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) starting a new job as a stockbroker at an established Wall Street firm. His boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) asks him to lunch and tells him that the key to success is to encourage investors to make more and riskier investments. Hanna also tells Belfort that successful brokers drink, drug, and womanize to great excess. Black Monday causes Belfort to lose his job, but his aggressive salesmanship soon earns him a small fortune selling penny stocks.
GREG: Belfort doesn t take long to realize that penny stocks are flying under the radar of the SEC and he starts his own company Stratton Oakmont. He hires his marijuana-selling buddies and soon they are making millions of dollars. That s when Forbes magazine interviews Belfort labeling him The Wolf of Wall Street. The article also attracts the attention of the FBI and Belfort begins his descent.
SCOTT: Greg, this movie is all about bloated excess, and we see it in full force on two different levels. On one level there is, of course, the lavish excess shown by Belfort and his staff at Stratton Oakmont. They partake in prodigious bouts of drinking, drugging, and womanizing. The overindulgence of physical pleasure and the trappings of living a corrupt, greedy life are clearly on full display here. There is also bloated excess in the filming of this movie. Martin Scorsese needed to be reigned in here, big-time. There are far too many scenes of Belfort and Azoff (Jonah Hill) reveling in their inebriation, their toxic injections, their boorish behavior, their prostitutes, and their abuse of women in general. How many times do we need to see frenzied, infantile men snorting cocaine, popping quaaludes, and having random sex? The Wolf of Wall Street is basically Animal House on steroids, an endless orgy of excess in both the characters actions and the filmmakers ego-feeding editing choices.
GREG: I agree with you to a point, Scott. The film clocks in at just 3 hours which was an hour more than the film needed. But Scorsese is a genius and nobody edits Scorsese. I thought it was necessary to show just how over-the-top these young men had gone. They believed they were above the law and above morality. But, yeah, a few of those scenes could easily have been cut. I thought this was sort of the opposite side of The Great Gatsby (also played by Leonardo Dicaprio). In Gatsby we have a leading man who worked hard to create a lavish lifestyle so that he d be worthy of the woman of his desire. He apparently has no other woman in his life. Belfort, on the other hand, creates wealth for the sake of having as much sex and drugs as he wants. His money isn t there to make him worthy of anything other than living as extreme a lifestyle as he possibly can.
SCOTT: I just didn t understand the point of this movie, Greg. There are no heroes here, just a couple of jerks who get rich by cheating people. They are neither tragic heroes nor sympathetic figures. They re merely losers and villains whom we hope will get their comeuppance. Does the story teach us something about the downfall of humanity? I suppose it can serve as a cautionary tale, but like you said, lopping an hour off the three hour running time would have helped make this bloatation much more palatable. One positive observation I d like to make is that this movie features an extraordinary performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. This role showcases his impressive range as an actor, thanks to the volatility of the character he plays. I wouldnt have thought that DiCaprio was capable to handling the character of Belfort, who is a complex and broken man hell-bent on harming others to benefit himself. As much as I disliked this movie, I believe DiCaprio deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
GREG: Scott, you re right when you say there are no heroes here, at least not in the classic sense. But I think Wolf is in the same category as other films we have reviewed this year - that of the anti-hero. We see this same pattern in American Hustle where none of the players has any moral character. We also saw this in Pain & Gain where main characters were hoodlums. I think we like to see the decadent side of life. In the case of American Hustle we see an FBI agent who is overcome by his desire to be a great agent. In Pain we see three men who want to take another man s wealth. And in Wolf we see Belfort who rises to the top and gains everything only to lose it to his greed. I think all three of these stories are cautionary tales and align pretty well with mythological stories that want to teach us a lesson: be successful, but keep your head.
SCOTT: At least we see the lead character in American Hustle show compassion and attempt to make a change in his life. In The Wolf of Wall Street, the villainous lead characters are villainous to the bitter end. I m afraid the wolves in this movie were just not worth watching, especially not for three hours. I do admire Scorsese s movie-making style, and DiCaprio delivers what is arguably the best performance of his career. For those reasons I m willing to generously award Wolf 2 Reels out of 5. There is no hero story at all, no transformation, no positive mentoring, no sign of the classic hero journey. Just a steady downward spiral for our villains. For that reason, I can only give this movie 1 Hero out of 5. Movie: Hero:
GREG: I agree that The Wolf of Wall Street is a masterfully created film. Martin Scorsese delivers and wrings the most from his actors. This is clearly the story of rise and fall of a giant. I did see an arc here. Bermont starts out innocent, is corrupted by an anti-mentor in the form of his boss (played by Matthew McConaughey). You and I have been talking about reviewing villains in 2014 and I think this is the origin story of a true villain. Our hero loses his caring and selflessness and becomes corrupt. Then we watch him fall from the highest of heights to the lowest of lows. It s a skillfully produced story and one I m willing to give it 3 Reels out of 5 (I would have gone to 4 if it had come in under 2 hours). I think we re going to have to give considerable thought to anti-hero stories in 2014. We ve seen a few this year and there is a clear pattern. Belfort, in my mind, qualifies as an anti-hero. He doesn t fit our usual expectations of heroes in the classic sense so it is difficult to give him a hero rating. But since he can be held up as a cautionary tale, I m going to give him 3 out of 5 Heroes. Movie: Hero:
First, for some context: Goodfellas is still my favorite film of all time. I could watch it any day of the week, and feel exhilarated, conflicted, and interested in the plight of the disturbed - yet appealing - cast of characters. Goodfellas is film that enters the controversial life of "ganagster", living hectic "nontraditional" businessmen lives breaking the law, and sometimes killing anyone who gets in the way. Despite all the debauchery and ruthlessness displayed by it's characters, they were all still memorable, oddly relatable, and with their own codes of honor and whacked ethics. Many people in the world could likely see eye-to-eye with many of the characters of the film in certain contexts, despite how extreme and savage some their actions might have been. The film knew how to display these characters at the times when they were appealing, and then equally demonstrate the consequences of both their own tragic faults in their personalities, and the faults of the life of being part of a criminal operation.
Now, Wolf on Wallstreet, on the other hand, completely goes off the rails in it's attempt to portray the mindset of the main character. You see through the eyes of the atrocious man so clearly, it's almost as if he was behind the creation of the whole film itself: almost completely glamorizing nearly every single despicable act one could think of, without any attempt to comment, juxtapose, or use these actions to make a statement. It is almost as if we are watching a raw recreation the main character's life for the sole purpose of watching it completely unedited, as if his rampant drug abuse and sexual acts are something of a historical novelty worth experiencing first hand (For one example, the orgies during the height of the roman catholic papacy have this all beat, so where's THAT film?). The humor is lowest common denominator, and worthlessly low brow. The film never seems to show any sign of acknowledging the atrocities displayed by it's characters and plot: it just plods along, showing everything as typical, wonderful, and entertaining. Even during the very end of the film, when the tone finally starts to change, it is only because the character himself is starting to face severe consequences. In theory, all of this "should" be fine, but a director needs to walk a very careful line between exploring/evaluating a criminal's life style, and just displaying needless sexual acts and drug abuse for 3 hours, in a seemingly endless masturbatory manner.
I suppose I don't understand this film's purpose. Goodfellas could also easily be interpreted as masturbatory in nature with it's depiction of violence and crime, but it is also ripe with scenes that establish context, redeem, evaluate or explain characters, and takes a tone that is observant, yet not completely partial to supporting EVEYTHING the main character does. That film took many risks with a controversial figure, and made it an incredibly enjoyable film... Wolf on Wallstreet is disgusting, annoying, and frustrating. The film isn't enjoyable in it's ability to demonstrate or critique these things about it's main characters - it just shows us them, in their full "glory".
The film was such a disappointment.
Pt 2 of D/\S marathon