Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"The Wolf Of Wall Street": A Turd In Talent's Clothing

Now Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

I was incredibly excited to see this movie.  Directed by Martin Scorsese, a director I respect.  Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor I respect.  Written by Terence Winter, the mind behind the incredibly engaging Boardwalk Empire.  Critics loved it and it was up for multiple Oscars.  I was set for this to be one of my favorite films of 2013.

This was three hours of my life that I will never get back.  And believe me, I want them back.

(SPOILER ALERT: There are mild spoilers ahead.  I would avoid it if it weren’t essential to my analysis of this movie, but if you still want to see it, stop reading here and know that I think it is total shite.)

What the hell happened here?  This was a dream team of talent, and instead we got a grueling and painful experience that just never seems to get any closer to ending.  Well, in part, I blame the source material.  The film is based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street scam artist who became insanely wealthy by fraudulently convincing investors to put money into worthless stocks.  And herein lies the biggest problem.  This is a story of a despicable man, told from the viewpoint of a despicable man, with about as much humanity as one can expect from a despicable man, i.e., none.

DiCaprio does a capable job of portraying Belfort as the self-centered egotistical ass that he is, but the film revels in his villainy, making his exploits completely unrelatable.  The first two hours of the film play like a bad comedy, showing off the exploits of Belfort and his cronies as they scam and cheat, mostly while completely high on their own hubris and whatever illicit substances just happen to be lying around.  The problem is, none of the scenes that are played for laughs are even remotely funny.  One of the key elements of a comedic moment is that someone has to suffer, but that suffering is inconsequential if the people involved are too intoxicated to understand their situation or the implications of their actions.  Instead, the film becomes a series of drawn-out, redundant idiocies, one after the other.  It’s as if Scorsese decided that he wanted to direct the new Jackass movie, and the result is just as tedious.

The third act of the movie was what I painstakingly waited for.  There was an undercurrent in the plot that the FBI was monitoring Belfort’s activities and was waiting for the right opportunity to strike.  It was inevitable that they would, but as the noose pulls tighter around Belfort’s neck, he doesn’t begin to see the error of his ways; he has an opportunity to step away from his illegal enterprise, but his hubris keeps him in the game.  This is ultimately his downfall, and his “great” character moment is the realization that all the people he brought into the game with him will go down too if he tries to save himself.  But this all rings incredibly hollow, though, as it doesn’t negate the attitude the film has toward his shenanigans earlier in the film.  He doesn’t regret the harm he’s caused anyone.  He doesn’t regret his life of excess made through spending other people’s money.  He regrets that he got caught and that his friends will be caught as well.  His character has learned nothing, and we as the audience learn nothing from watching him, so his entire journey through the course of the film is pointless.  Belfort’s character arc is a flat line on an EKG machine, completely devoid of life, dead on arrival.

Don’t waste your time on this one.  It’s stupid, pointless, and a complete waste of great talent by those involved.  Don’t direct comedy, Mr. Scorsese.  Your dark and brutal sensibilities are completely lost on the art.

Thought this movie was hilarious?  Think I’m missing something vital?  I’d love hear why I’m wrong about this one.  Tell me in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think you are completely wrong, but I wonder if it was really meant to be funny. Maybe it was supposed to be horrifying. Maybe the film didn't revel in Belfort so much as wish to show what really happens on Wall Street, how these people often get away with their crimes and certainly never care about those they hurt in the process. I agree that the execution was poor, but I wonder if their intent was to crucify rather than glorify Belfort. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this review and look forward to reading more.