Did the substance get lost in the laughs, or in the rush to edit the film and have it ready in time for Christmas?
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort – an ambitious stockbroker who needs to find new employment when his reputable, long time firm goes belly up on Black Monday, October 19, 1987. Still seeking the thrill and financial rewards from being a broker, he gets involved with a boiler room operation pushing penny stocks out on Long Island. He loves it (especially the money), and starts his own firm that explodes, takes Wall Street by storm and draws attention from the FBI and the SEC because these guys are breaking every law you can imagine.
Based on a true story, The Wolf Of Wall Street is attempting to be the Goodfellas of Wall Street, but it lacks the same great ambiance, story, writing and acting. It’s a barely passable movie, but one that should have been so much better.
Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Terence Winter (based on Belfort’s book), The Wolf Of Wall Street has a fantastic first hour. Everything about that opening 50 – 60 minutes is perfect as Scorsese and team perfectly set the stage for something that never comes.
We get to understand the gonzo feel and outrageousness of the world these guys are entering and sharing with us. Matthew McConaughey is mesmerizing and brilliant as Belfort’s mentor, and you wish he had more than 2 scenes. Most of all, Scorsese and team give us a reason why these guys are so drawn to this world. It’s as basic as young guys seeking cash, thrills, excitement and hot women, but maybe just a bit more.
However, Scorsese and Winter don’t get past the debauchery. Sure, they slightly touch upon the financial guys as criminals riding close to the edge, then obliterating that edge, but the creative team is much more interested in showing wildness rather than expanding the narrative. How many times do we need to see Belfort and his cohorts doing drugs to explain that they liked doing drugs?
We need so much more about the FBI investigation, the relationship between DiCaprio and the inner circle, even more about Belfort’s marriages, but we are constantly cutting to more scenes of people snorting coke or taking Quaaludes.
It’s a shame we don’t get more of that other stuff, because the actors can handle it. DiCaprio brings his trademark intensity, and shows astounding physical ability in a scene people will be talking about for years, but it’s co-star Margot Robbie who emerges as the biggest star in The Wolf Of Wall Street. The Aussie explodes off the screen as the sexy and sassy wife who starts off enamored with Jordan’s life, but, ultimately, repulsed by it. Her character would have been a perfect conduit for the audience to see the changes and negatives in Belfort and his gang of thieves as their schemes get out of hand, but it was an opportunity lost.
When everyone talking about your movie is focused on the debauchery and such, it’s a sign that the movie itself might not be the best movie you have ever made.
The Wolf of Wall Street is rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence