Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

In Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street, the director reunites with frequent collaborator, Leonardo DiCaprio, to tell the story of a wealthy, hedonistic stockbroker who gets too in over his head as we watch his debauchery-filled rise to power, as well as his pathetic fall from grace. Seem familiar? Naturally it would, because it is. This is DiCaprio’s second film this year where he portrays a young, opulent socialite (the other film being The Great Gatsby); but unlike Gatsby (or at least the source material from which it was adapted), Wolf fails to provide much substance to the plethora of sex, drugs, and money that will be shoved down your throat over the course of this long-winded affair.

Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a young aspiring stockbroker in New York City in the late 80’s who is quickly taken under the wing of a successful businessman (Matthew McConaughey). However, just as quickly as he begins to make a name for himself, he loses his job after Black Monday hits. Unshaken by recent failures, Belfort soon opens his own firm alongside some seedy friends (played by Jonah Hill, Jon Bernthal, P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, and others), and after some time and shady deals, their business makes them all filthy rich Wall Street big shots. However, their sordid practices and epicurean lifestyles eventually catch up to them as FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) takes an interest in Belfort’s actions.

The film is unashamedly irreverent and over-indulgent. And you may find this charming in the beginning. The dialogue is pretty funny, there’s a lot of sex and ridiculous parties… but like everything else in life, you eventually become numb to it all. You start to feel like you’re caught in a loop of coke and coitus, waiting for the film to hit you with the point of it all. And though it takes it far too long to do so, it eventually does. But by the time the movie starts to take itself seriously, you’re already done caring. I know I was. At three hours, the film overstays its welcome.

The cast does well, the movie looks good, and there are a number of timely pop hits thrown in the soundtrack, but honestly, there was no point to this movie. It’s just an exercise in excess that’s akin to a guy who gets drunk at a party, ruins it for everyone else, and then has the audacity to fall asleep on the host’s couch until morning. We’ve all seen this kind of story told before, and better, and from the same director. The ending practically took notes from GoodFellas. Maybe if an hour had been shaved off of the film, and there was more focus (as well as a fresher presentation), this would have been much more effective as a self-referential piece of satire. But as is, it’s basically an ode to hedonists everywhere, with a slapped on note at the end to remind everyone that doing drugs is bad, and not to let your money control you.


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