Monday, December 30, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street



OK, I'm not drinking the Kool Aid on this one. It was basically three hours of material that you would put in a trailer and almost no story telling at all. I know that Martin Scorsese is one of our greatest living directors but he needs to be called out the same way that people are willing to call out Spielberg when he plays the same notes over and over again. This is not a movie that has anything to say and it hits no emotional points except tedium and disgust.  I can't say it is vile because the movie does not really advocate a viewpoint, but it would be easy to see how people watching this would have the same reaction as the stockbrokers who saw the Forbes article that shared the title of this film. Where do I sign up?

The movie "Wall Street" had a clearer condemnation of the excesses of greed and capitalism, this movie is simply an excuse to showcase those excesses. How many times is it necessary to see Leonardo DiCaprio pop a pill, snort cocaine up his nose or end up drooling on the floor? If your answer is less than a half dozen times, be prepared to be bored, because that sequence of events is repeated every twenty minutes in this three hour tour of late eighties/early nineties barbarism. The fact that he is often accompanied by Jonah Hill as a dweebish partner in crime should make it even less necessary to repeat the events over and over. We get it. Ladle on some nudity, including a shot of what I hope was a prosthetic Jonah Hill penis, and you begin to imagine the lengths to which this movie will go to show us the depravity of this wolf-pack. What might have been missing was any sense of the consequences to anyone other that the lead character in the schemes being played out here. I did not care much for "Blue Jasmine" earlier this year but it is an intellectual and moral giant of a film com,pared to this load of thunder signifying nothing.

Jordan Belfort heads a company designed to separate people from their money regardless of whether the investment has any merit. In fact he seems to prefer that the stocks that he peddles are so high risk because that will absolve him of blame for a lack of return by any of his customers. DiCaprio tears into the role with gusto but the part is so under written that he comes across as a stick figure of bellicose ambition. Just as there are too many sequences of debauchery; from dwarf tossing to gang bangs to gleeful fraud on a party line, there are way too many speeches. This my friends comes from a speech teacher. Belfort gets on the microphone in front of his troops almost as often as he snorts cocaine. What should come over as lunatic inspirational messaging for the sales people in the boiler room operation disguised as an investment firm, seems tired and redundant. Emotional high points can't be high if everything is delivered at the same pitch. The one time it worked in the film was in the moment that Belfort reneges on his S.E.C. agreement. He drops the hyperbole for a few seconds to make a real emotional connection with one of his employees and then dramatically returns to the hyper stylized tone he uses for most of the picture.

There is no character arc in the story. Everyone starts out as a greedy bastard and everyone end up as a greedy bastard. No one is enlightened or changed as a result of the events that take place in the time span of the movie. Some of those events make an interesting anecdote but they do not make a compelling story and when strung together for three hours they make a tedious film. I can understand why there was talk of moving this film to the early part of the next year, it needs some firm pruning and a story editor who can make some sense out of what Scorsese has shot. I think that a decision was made that the salacious nature of the film subject and the name of Martin Scorsese would be satisfactory at  bringing in film fans and there are enough critical apologists that the movie would get some awards consideration. I frankly saw DiCaprio better in a two minute scene in "The Great Gatsby" than in the whole of this film.

The kinetic energy of the filming and editing can't turn the excesses into anything other than a teaser trailer for a movie that lasts three hours. If you watch the first teaser for the film, you get everything there is in the movie. Add a few more F-bombs and a lot of nudity and drug use and there you have what so many people are claiming is a great film. It takes a lot of talented people to make a movie and the technical aspects of this film are excellent. There are some good short pieces of acting work that are quality based but they are in aid of something meaningless. The vision of the director is ultimately responsible for how the film is supposed to come across to the audience. The director here seems to be blinded by his vision of decadence, much the same way as he was by the style of film in "New York, New York". A vision can't just be the images, it needs to be emotions and insight, two things lacking in this film.  Art is subjective, so some will find this artful, I just found it loud, crass and not very entertaining.

9 comments:

Oscar Mendoza said...

Wow crazy to see you were disappointed in this one!
I loved this film the acting was on par and the pacing of the film was exactly right for the material; it was also Hilarious! I saw how you said that there was no real story to this film but I always felt Scorsese was all about the characters. In fact you can find lots of interviews where he mentions he doesn't care about the story of his films but rather the characters and that seems to be alright. In my opinion film can be done correctly with out a very interesting story as long as its truthful to the characters they present and this did that for me. I feel GoodFellas was the exact same and I can see this same review applied to GoodFellas so im curious did you like GoodFellas? Nevertheless great review I hope you get to catch Inside Inside Llewyn Davis as soon as possible because its truly one of the best of the year.

Richard Kirkham said...

Oscar, thanks for being detailed in you comments, it makes it easy for me to see where we differ on this. The pacing was problematic for me because they hit the gas pedal and keep it on high for three hours. There is no diversity in mood or story. As for character, I understood these characters after the first twenty minutes and then they stayed exactly the same. And they do the same things repeatedly. I like the Goodfellas comparison, that was a point I made when talking with my companions. It is very similar, except that the characters in Goodfellas reveal more about themselves and how they got to their point as the film goes along, here the experiences were just incidents that don't change the characters.Jordan falls in love with a new woman and acts exactly the way he did before. There are scenes that are interesting but too often it just feels like showing off and not something that you would want to show off. I will probably see Llewyn Davis in the next couple of weeks, if not then when the Best Picture Showcase comes around, assuming it gets nominated. Thanks for continuing to visit, I hope that we we disagree you don't get discouraged about reading. I enjoy hearing your point of view.

le0pard13 said...

I will be checking this one out, too. I can understand your issues, in general (without seeing the film). When Scorsese is on, he is without peer. However, when off (even by a little) he can be a bit insufferable (cough***The Departed***cough). I'll let you know, my friend.

Richard Kirkham said...

A film fan needs to see a Scorsese film, even when it is weak. My opinion seems to be in the minority. I'll be interested in what you think.

Oscar Mendoza said...

I can't disagree with what you said except for the fact that I liked or didn't mind some of the things that turned you off. Film really is subjective isn't it; & ill always check in I actually like when someone disagrees with me so that a conversation is had; keep the great reviews coming and ill always stop by. Happy New Years!!

And I really hope Inside Llewyn Davis gets nominated I can bet that it will....

Ruth said...

Hi Richard! I’m not drinking the Kool-aid either, in fact I was rather put off by it I didn’t bother to review it. I just didn’t care to let it linger in my mind. Like you said, it was over-indulgent in debauchery and anything wicked in this world. I mean we get it the first time around its shown, but for 3 hours we’re subjected to one lewd act after another and there is zero redeeming quality about the characters, heck Scorsese didn’t even try. I think he said he didn’t want to jugde his characters, but in doing so, we get a very hollow vision of moral corruption. I don’t find it enjoyable either, apart from some hilarious physical comedy, it just left a bitter taste in my mouth afterwards.

Richard Kirkham said...

Thanks for having my back on this Ruth. I feel somewhat out of synch since so many others are praising this. I have had at least three conversations with people who also disliked it but many of my students loved it.

Kev D. said...

THANK YOU. There was a solid 90 minutes that could have been cut out of this film. Yeah, we get it. Sex and drugs and money and greed.

Good call on the absence of any character arc. No story is one thing, but no character OR story? For three hours? That's insane. I have trouble watching any movie with no character like this.

I just don't get why so many people are going ga-ga over this one. It's three hours long, and you can sum up the story in one or two sentences.

They don't even really explain why what they did was illegal, only that it WAS illegal. Talk about treating the audience like idiots, simply feeding them boobs and Quaalude references and DERRRRRP Jonah Hill is jacking off!!!

I hate this movie. Almost as much as I hated Man of Steel. But that's a whole other rant about a movie lacking character development.

Richard Kirkham said...

I'm glad that others who feel the way I did are coming by. There is just so much flash and it repeats and then repeats again. Thanks for posting your thoughts.