The Wolf of Wall Street: Scorcese’s Fall to Mediocrity

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This movie was hard for me to watch. Not because it’s long, not because it’s sexually graphic, but because it’s so mediocre. The film is singular, devoid of the complexity we’ve grown to appreciate in a Scorcese film, and devoid of a protagonist who we care about. I don’t mean that the protagonist has to be a good person; Henry Hill was not a good person, but we cared about him. The same can be said for Travis Bickle, Howard Hughes, Jake LaMotta, and most other Scorcese protagonists. None of them were necessarily good people, or sympathetic people, but they were all interesting people, and that’s what made them characters that the audience can care about. Which leads me to my first point: Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is boring. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m sure up until the point he got sent to jail his life was exciting, full of booze, drugs, sex, and money. But as a character and as a person he’s fucking boring. There’s nothing new about the character of Belfort that we haven’t seen a million times before. All he is is Henry Hill with a bit of experience from Gordon Gecco.

But, unlike Jordan, at least Henry Hill’s story was interesting and insightful. We were shown one of the more realistic views of a world that few of us will ever get to see. We see a man dealing with the conflicts of two worlds that he must juggle: that of his family and that of his “family.” Jordan, as I said above, has none of this. His greed and love of drugs and sex is unbounded by any real conflicts. If he gets caught cheating, he’s forgiven. There’s nothing and no one impeding his drug use. And his punishment for everything he’s done is nothing more than a few years in prison, only to come out and be just as rich and successful before. Yes, fine, his wife left near the end of the movie, but between the hookers and the money and everything else, I think he’ll manage to get over it. On a final point, the worst part of the character is the complete lack of character development. He tells us right in the beginning that he arrived on Wall Street as a greedy bastard. We see a few scenes of him at his first firm, timid as a mouse while talking to his boss who raked in $1 million last year. Then he goes to Long Island and instantly becomes this loud, obnoxious big shot. All it took was one good day at work and his first puff of crack, generously offered by his friend Donnie (Jonah Hill). And that’s it, nothing about him changes from that point. Like I said, he’s boring and singular. This leads me to my next point, the story is as singular as the character.

The movie is basically three hours long, and about two and a half hours of the movie are dedicated to showing the ridiculous escapades of this man. Partying at work, partying at a club, partying on his yacht, partying back at work, oh wait let’s quickly show how he sent money to Switzerland, okay back to the partying. There’s no variety here, the entire movie tries to stay on this emotionally thrilling high with no tempo or changes of pace. two-thirds of the way into the movie, I just couldn’t give a shit anymore. I started playing a game of guessing whether he’ll be snorting cocaine or swallowing quaaludes in the next scene because that’s basically the entire movie. Seriously, look at the poster at the top of this article: that’s the movie. A bunch of guys acting moronically and getting rich followed by more partying and idiocy.

This film was not what I expect from Scorcese. Some argue that he’s not what he used to be, and after seeing The Departed and Shutter Island, I was starting to agree (seriously, The Departed was almost entirely a shot for shot remake of Infernal Affairs, the latter being a much more cohesive and overall better film). But then the man stunned me with Hugo and I was back on the Scorcese train, but this film is not one I want to be riding with.

I’ll give the movie some credit, some scenes I loved, and some were quite funny and witty. Watching Jordan try to function after downing a handful of some older, more powerful quaaludes, then trying to stop Donnie from talking on the wiretapped phone was great. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that the rest of the movie was just the same shit over and over again. I honestly don’t care about the amount of sex shown, I know that’s a complaint that some people had, but I’m totally fine with a voluminous use of sex, as long as it’s used well, but this did nothing for me except remind me of all the better movies I could have been watching like, say, Margin Call or Goodfellas or Casino or  Glenngarry Glen Ross or even Trading Places for something lighter. In fact, that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to watch one of these fine films just so I can see something that didn’t have me on the verge of sleep halfway through.

If you want to see this film just for the sake of seeing this film, go ahead, but I wouldn’t spend my money on seeing it in theaters. This movie is wholly undeserving of $14. It’s not good, and it’s not so bad that it’s good. It’s right smack in the middle full of mediocrity, singularity, and dullness. On the bright side, with the Oscars right around the corner, there are much better nominated films that you can spend your money on.

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