The first thing to say about The Wolf of Wall Street is that it is three hours long. Three hours is a long time to be doing something. Some days I have gone for my lunch before I have been in work three hours.
Could this story be told in less than three hours? In short: yes.
What is the story? It’s another twisted version of the American dream. Man is good at something (convincing people to buy shares in companies) and becomes very successful and ends up having everything he ever dreamed of – can he cope with having everything/always wanting more? I think we all know the answer to this. They very rarely make films about people who have it all and do it without hurting anyone or themselves.
Someone at some stage is to blame for these three hour films. Maybe it’s Peter Jackson. Maybe it’s Francis Ford Coppola. One thing is for sure is that it’s almost certainly a bearded man.
If I was to get a little bit analytical I would ask how many things you need to see a character do that explain him or her? And how long can it take? We don’t get to see layers to DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. This is nothing to do with DiCapz’s performance, he’s ace as usual. There just really aren’t any layers to the character. This is THE layer: he wants everything: drugs, sex and money. And he doesn’t mind breaking the law to get any of them.
So if we ignore the ‘losing it all’ bit at the end do we need two hours so show this? Well, no. Do we have fun watching it all? Mainly. So is it too much of a problem? Well I’m sorry that I watch a Martin Scorcese film and expect to be satisfied with the film not being too much of a problem. It’s not a tired child at a party.
I also would ask questions about the glorification of the man and his methods. We never really are asked to care about the negatives/downside to what he does. Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights is barely two-dimensional as the FBI guy on Belfort’s case. The women having varying things done to them are rarely more than people having things done to them.
Of course all my issues with it are things that have occurred to me since I watched it. They weren’t necessarily things blighting my enjoyment as I watched. There’s plenty to like: Dicaprio and Jonah Hill are brilliant throughout. Matthew McConaughey is not in the film enough – but when he is he’s grade A. It looks brilliant and has an amazing soundtrack, just in case those two don’t go without saying about a Scorsese film.
It’s not bad. I don’t want to create the impression that it’s bad. Which questions why I have written some of the things in the above paragraphs. I just don’t think it’s particularly got anything to say and it’s the story of someone who is quite awful. I will almost certainly have watched it another ten times by Christmas.