Screened Out – The Wolf of Wall Street

By : Stephen Miller
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Joanna Lumley, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey

The modern twist on the old saying is, “Nothing succeeds like excess.” Director Martin Scorsese has taken that to heart in The Wolf of Wall Street, an opulent, slimy, black comedy about a famous Wall Street scandal. It’s entertaining, even as it meanders.

The running time is three hours; that might take some fortitude  plus a resilient bladder to get through. However, in Scorsese’s hand, the acting and art direction are impeccable, so much so that the film is nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and acting nods to DiCaprio and Hill, despite some noticeable flaws.

Wolf is a satirical look at Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), the famous ’90s stockbroker swindler and founder of Stratton Oakmont. Belfort’s first day as a licensed dealer happens to be Black Monday October 19, 1987 the worst crash since the Depression. Desperation helped the conman realize his gargantuan sales skills. He used these skills to recruit Hill and other lowlifes, thugs, and drug dealers, training them to sell virtually worthless penny stocks to people who answer ads in the back of Hustler magazine.

Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in an excessive flick about excess.

Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in an excessive flick about excess.

Hustler is right. In fact, this year is the year of the hustle, with several Oscar nominees exploring scams. Nebraska has an old man believing he won a million dollars from junk mail. Dallas Buyers Club recounts how HIV-infected patients worked loopholes in US law to get and sell life-extending prescriptions. And, of course, American Hustle is a fictional take on the famous Atlantic City ABSCAM scheme.

However, Wolf boasts more sex and drugs than all those other movies combined.

Fun fact: the script also has 522 f-bombs, which may or may not be the most ever said in a film though its three-hour running time can allow for such a record.

Wolf is loaded with slick ’90s style and quotable scenes. DiCaprio is voracious as Belfort. (DiCaprio also produced the movie, outbidding Brad Pitt for rights to Belfort’s memoirs.) Smaller roles by McConaughey, Reiner, and Lumley (of Ab Fab fame) are delightful, and Hill finally shows some skill as a character actor. DiCaprio and Scorsese obviously set out to make an over-the-top comedy about megalomania, and they often succeed

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

However, there’s just too much here. It’s as if no one could decide how to edit Belfort’s story into a forward-moving plot. Though often very funny, Wolf really lacks drive and direction; audiences can often wonder where this is all heading the criminals ostentatious, egotistic plans as well as the movie’s plot. In the end, the script utilizes several narrators and lots of storytelling tricks to keep from screeching to a complete halt.

Should you still see it? Yes, if you’re a movie buff, because the way this film is made its triumphs and flaws are still intriguing. However, even as it entertains, what Wolf says about the egocentrism, financial excess, sex, drugs, and amorality of Wall Street is old news news that keeps repeating in both this film and in our real world.

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