Leonardo DiCaprio has said he’s taking a break from making movies for a while. After watching The Wolf of Wall Street, I have to tell you, I don’t blame him. Sitting through this 3-hour adrenaline rush of a movie almost made me want to take a break from movies for a while, too.
Director Martin Scorsese’s black comedy based on 1980’s stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s rise and fall is a drug-laden, profanity-laced, high-speed trip that has all of the same stylistic hallmarks of Scorsese’s masterpiece Goodfellas, but none of its depth, character development or flow. Instead, The Wolf of Wall Street is just a relentless barrage of uninteresting characters doing reprehensible things at high volumes and numbing pace. I understand that Scorsese is interested in satire here and the comic effect is attempted to be achieved by overdoing it and making these characters ugly, I get that. But satire only works if you keep your audience engaged enough to pay attention to the point you are trying to get across. The Wolf of Wall Street is only interested in the ego of its main character, Jordan Belfort, on whose autobiography the movie is based. How am I supposed to care about a character I despise from the first second I lay eyes on him? If that’s the point, then mission accomplished. Where we go from there, I have no clue, because you lost me at hello.
I won’t lie and say that there aren’t moments in The Wolf of Wall Street that entertained me. I mean, how couldn’t there be? It’s a three hour movie about guys snorting cocaine off naked bodies and grown men acting like idiots and Leonardo DiCaprio getting high, wearing expensive suits and blowing his career roof off by playing every single scene at full tilt. I was exhausted just watching him. And the poor guy is already acting from inside a hole, considering he’s completely miscast for this role. The guy still looks 16 and we’re supposed to buy him as a Wall Street shark who takes over the world? I’ll give him his props, though, he works his butt off and gives it his all, even though it just never rings true.
As for the rest of the movie, the problem isn’t the casting as much as it is everything else. It is just too much. The ‘80s were about excess, we get it. Scorsese is about as subtle as a hammer to the head. If there could have been some variance in tone, some downshifting, some real moments, that would have been refreshing, but, instead, the entire movie feels like a joke, intentional and over-the-top, and we’re the suckers who are being taken for a ride.
Enjoy your last laugh, Leo, you earned it.