In the next couple of weeks with the impending award season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a look at Oscar-worthy movies.
First up is Martin Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (R). Based on the book (and the life of Jordan Belfort), The Wolf of Wall Street shows the rise and fall of Belfort as a shady stockbroker on Wall Street in the late ‘80s/ early ‘90s. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Belfort and is joined on screen by Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey and Kyle Chandler.
Ryan: I mean this in a both positive and negative manner — The Wolf of Wall Street is a mess. Negative, in that it’s almost three hours of ego-driven debauchery that becomes redundant to watch, but also positive in that the stream-of-conscious storytelling does lead to some very entertaining and powerful scenes. Simply put, if this movie was more of procedural or a docu-drama it wouldn’t be as fascinating to watch. But in the hands of Scorsese, he’s able to satirize much of story in a way that leads to debate and discussion. If anything The Wolf of Wall Street will inspire much deliberation as moviegoers extol its own set of virtues and vices on what the film is trying to say.
Andy: I will just come out and say it; The Wolf of Wall Street is too long. There are scenes that are completely unnecessary, such as a Perfect Storm-style boat sinking, that seem like it was tacked on to the move to make it more action-oriented. There are some scenes that just go on for too long, like some of Jonah Hill’s antics. However, as Ryan says, there are some scenes that are fantastic. When you have a marquee director and a highly talented cast making a movie that is purposely bloated and over-the-top, that is to be expected.
Ryan: There’s been a lot of blow back with The Wolf of Wall Street in how it “arguably” celebrates the hedonistic life of Belfort and shows nothing of the harm that his illegal business dealings were doing to his defrauded investors. I certainly find some degree of validity to those arguments, but again this movie is not an objective news account of what happened (The narration by DiCaprio and the breaking down of the fourth wall should have been dead giveaways to that point). In all honesty, I found the movie to be more of a film about addiction (money, fame, sex, drugs, etc.) than an idealization of a certain type of lifestyle.
Andy: The performances in the movie are strong throughout. DiCaprio is always good, but here he is edgy in a spastic kind of way that is maintained throughout the entire movie. Indeed, it is the gravitas that DiCaprio brings to Jordan Belfort that sometimes makes the movie feel like it is celebrating the misdeeds rather than condemning them. As good as he is, DiCaprio is almost out shined by his costar. Jonah Hill continues to amaze. He seems like he should be a one-dimensional actor, but is able to consistently create unique, believable characters, with The Wolf of Wall Street being perhaps the most clear example of this talent.
Ryan: In a lot of ways The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie that tries to prove its own narrative’s point. What sticks with you after seeing the movie — certainly I would guess — are some of the more ridiculous aspects of the film. That’s what you are going to tell your friends about when they ask you about the movie. And this eaves-dropping in this kind of amoral yet all-American world is one of Scorcese’s more overarching points with the movie.
Generally speaking, we will speak out of both sides of our mouth when it comes to judging the lead character. We will condemn Belfort/DiCaprio’s behavior (because it should be criticized) but we will also allow ourselves to be seduced by his charm, ego and persuasion—especially if that leads us to being rich—no matter the cost.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a bit overblown, but the strength of its spectacle coupled with some very good performances redeems it enough to earn a B+.