Movie Review: The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

I watched The Wolf Of Wall Street partly because of its Oscar nomination; I’ve lately been in the habit of trying to see most or all of the Best Picture nominees — if only to see for myself whether they were worth it. This one was not.

◊ Metadata

IMDb page
Wikipedia entry
Run time: 3 hours (180 minutes)
MPAA rating: R (for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence)
Director: Martin Scorsese

◊ What It’s About

The film, based on a book with the same title, follows the life and career of real-life stockbroker and convicted criminal Jordan Belfort. I didn’t know it until researching for this review, but Belfort’s activities were also the inspiration for the 2000 film Boiler Room, which I’ve also seen (and found more enjoyable than The Wolf Of Wall Street).

Belfort built his small penny stock firm into a billion-dollar enterprise in just a few years, defrauding investors along the way and becoming addicted to various illegal substances. After criminal convictions and time in prison, he wrote his memoirs and became a motivational speaker.

◊ What I Liked Least About It

1. The movie was too long. Three hours is okay for a powerful historical drama like Titanic or Saving Private Ryan, but not for a dark comedy about a fraudulent stockbroker.

2. Overly vulgar. If you know me, you know I don’t believe words are bad, so the language didn’t bother me. But much of it felt gratuitous, even to someone who’s worked on night crews at grocery stores where the F-word is more common than “the” or “a”. And there was really no point to multiple scenes of naked hookers covered in cocaine, other than for shock value. I get that the filmmakers were trying to show the outlandish behavior/lifestyle of Belfort and his cronies, but I don’t need to be battered by it.

◊ What I Liked Most About It

I liked most of all that Belfort was portrayed as a real person, and the viewer can actually sympathize with him at times — which makes sense considering that he wrote the book. This is in contrast to movies like Wall Street, where men like Gordon Gekko are portrayed without any redeeming qualities. Belfort, as amazingly portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has real fears and worries, makes mistakes like an average person would in his situation, and is often at the mercy of his own desires. Too often, these “criminal masterminds” are written into movies as evil supermen.

The film also explained many of the Wall Street terms and processes with which the average American might not be familiar — this was usually done by Belfort turning to the camera and talking directly to the audience.

◊ Overall Impression

While I feel for DiCaprio and his ongoing snubs in the Best Actor category (he did win the Golden Globe), the movie itself should not have been among the Oscars’ Best Picture nominees, and the Academy was certainly correct to not name it as the winner (12 Years A Slave won this year).

Had the movie been edited down to two hours, removing much of the gratuitous partying scenes, I might have been more confused as to why it lost.

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