Movies – The Wolf of Wall Street Review (or “Too Long For Its Own Good”)

Movies are getting too long these days.

Just this week, I found 12 Years A Slave pointlessly protracted when it could probably have been a snappier 90-120 minute feature.

Then you look at the likes of the Hobbit movies. I mean really, where’s the need for those films to be as long as they are? It’s a relatively short book fleshed out over three films that run to 180-odd minutes each. I never actually bothered to see the first one at the cinema because I knew I’d be bored stiff, and having checked it out on NetFlix with its tooth-pullingly dull real-time dinner scene, I was proved correct.

So I was hesitant to go along to see the three-hour long Wolf of Wall Street. It looked like it would be a fun film, but for that length of time, anything would surely begin to wear out its welcome.

Was I right?

The Wolf of Wall Street: What’s This About?

The official synopsis of The Wolf of Wall Street reads “A New York stock broker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case that includes mob infiltration into Wall Street and the corporate banking world.”wolf

That’s not really how I would describe it. Indeed, I’m not even sure where the mob infiltration stuff even comes into it, while the cooperation element is exclusive to the last 30 minutes.

I’d say it was more about the rise and fall of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who – along with his partners in the broker firm Stratton-Oakmont – made millions by selling dodgy penny shares for high commission, and led extremely hedonistic lifestyles in the process.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Who’s In It?

Starring Leonardo Di Caprio as Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street also includes the likes of Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler and – rather incongruously – Donna Freedman off Neighbours, aka Margot Robbie.

The Wolf of Wall Street: How Highly Is It Rated?

Imdb give it 8.7 from just shy of 100,000 votes, while Rotten Tomatoes gives it an approval rating of 76%. Critics reviews are a bit more mixed though.

Ultimately, any film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Di Caprio will be rated highly by some as a matter of course, so I did consider that when going along.

Thoughts – The Length

As I suspected, running time is the key here.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this film – the first half especially – but at three hours it’s too long; there’s no getting away from that it’s just too long.

Like I said above, the official synopsis of the film is about a man refusing to take part in a fraud case, but that section of the plot only really kicks in at the part way into the third and final hour. So if that’s what the wanted it to be about, they got it wrong.

And while the rise to power of Belfort and his associates is funny and well told, that really only lasts for about 90 minutes, which is too long as well. It’s as if Scorsese wanted to load the film up with all the funny stuff at the start, and then get to the meaty part of the plot a lot later.

By that point it felt too late, and by that point, I was in desperate need of a break from it.

The Acting & Characterisation

Another hit and miss area is the characterisation.

While I have no problem with any of the acting (well…apart from Margot Robbie’s attempt at a Brooklyn accent) the characterisation was a bit dodgy.

And I say that from the point of view that while it was no doubt reflective of the sort of pricks these guys were, I watched it thinking that perhaps the lack of anyone likeable was harmful to it.

If you look at a show like House of Cards – the original one especially – the main character is a right bastard in his actions, but he had a twinkle in his eye and mischievous way of making the viewer feel like his friend and co-conspirator.

Di Caprio, while good, doesn’t manage that with Belfort, even though he does break the fourth wall to talk to us from time to time. It’s clear that Francis Urquhart is what they were going for, but they fail. That’s not Di Caprio’s fault either, I should add; it’s the writing.

But the result is that some people – and I know a few who this has applied to – will come away from it with a bad taste in their mouths. The fact that this stuff did happen makes it tough to feel anything but anger towards the lot of them.

I didn’t especially mind that, but I understand the problem.

Random Observations

  • In some ways, this film might have been better if it had channeled Catch Me If You Can a bit more. It would have been nice to get to know more about Kyle Chandler’s FBI agent and how Belfort got on his radar. I get that this is based on a book and so its told from Belfort’s perspective, but much like 12 Years A Slave, a bit of creative license to make the story sit better wouldn’t have been a bad thing.
  • While it does explain a bit how they managed to make as much money as they did, it would again have been nice if they’d delved a bit deeper into how people were negatively affected by Belfort’s scams. It’s not made clear how much of what they did was illegal and what was above-board,  nor was it explained how many people lost money as a result of their scams.
  • The breaking point of the film for me was the scene where Belfort ends up off his face on drugs in that Country Club and struggles to get back to his car. It just seemed out of sync with the rest of the scenes, as if it would be more at home in a Harold & Kumar film.
  • Again, like 12 Years A Slave, this starts off with a rather pointless prolepsis. I wish directors would stop that.
  • The scene where they discuss the health & safety ramifications of throwing midgets like darts is just brilliant. Not politically correct in the least, but brilliant all the same.

The Wolf of Wall Street Review – Final Thoughts

So it comes back to the issue that I suspected it would – length.

Very few movies, if any, need to be as long as three hours. The Wolf of Wall Street is no exception.

It takes so long to get to the point, and once that point finally arrives, you’ve run out of steam. As much as some of the early bits were funny, they could have made way to make this film work as a far snappier 120 minute affair.

The other problem is the lack of an identifiable or likable lead character.

I would say that this is the sort of film you’d enjoy a lot in two sittings, at home on Blu Ray, but at the cinema, it’s just too much.

My conclusion…wait to watch it at home.

 

 

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