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The Wolf of Wall Street: Hilarious but Draining

January 11, 2014

When you spend three hours watching a movie you expect to have an opinion on it by the end. Or at least to have a strong sense of what the movie was, and what the aim of the people telling the story was. Yet, when The Wolf of Wall Street ended, all I was left with was an empty feeling in my gut, a handful of fucks, and a slight discomfort.

I don’t mean to suggest the movie wasn’t good. It certainly was.

This movie was constructed with the same care and authenticity that Scorcese applies to all of his films. The direction is great, the costuming is top notch, and the cast is phenomenal. The problem I think stems largely from the fact that the plot is interesting without ever really being tense. Nothing ever really feels like its on the line for Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), even when he’s facing death square in the face, God just seems to find a way.

The Wolf of Wall Street tells us about how Belfort went from an unemployed stock broker to one of the most successful men to ever grace Wall Street. More importantly, it digs into the extra legal means of how he obtained and ultimately secured his fortune. Belfort himself is intelligent and charismatic, able to turn entire rooms of brokers into an army of howling barbarians ready to steal from the rich and line their pockets. He’s also undeniably sleazy and surrounds himself with like minded people. Together they all snort cocaine off of hooker’s asses, drink heavily, and pop quaaludes.

This film doesn’t shy away from what I would call the ‘brotasticness’ of Wall Street. Their lives revolve around this pit of testosterone, and they thrive on competition. It’s always about being on top and getting what you want. A stock broker at Belfort’s company doesn’t take no for an answer. They don’t let other people make the decisions on when something is over. All of this, of course, ultimately contributes to Belfort’s inevitable downfall that he, in many ways, brings upon himself.

Yet, beside his easy rise to the top, everything else seems to be outside of his control.

In real life, coincidences happen. Things come together in really strange and silly ways, and life sometimes has a tendency to work out in one direction or the other. Everything just falls into place. However, when that happens in a movie it can feel almost lazy.

The flaw of its realism does help to fuel the greatest aspect of the film though, which is its gallows humor. The Wolf of Wall Street is outrageously funny, myself and others in the theater were laughing our heads off throughout the whole thing. The conversations that these characters have are silly and witty and sometimes just plain absurd, which helps to break up what is a very long story. There are also these surreal moments of astounding physical comedy that DiCaprio and Hill are fantastic at. Of course, the ultimate joke is the way everything comes together in that sick, twisted, cosmic way that’s bitterly funny, but is also what leaves you with that empty ‘I don’t know what I just watched’ feeling at the end of it.

Which brings us back to the beginning.

This is a three hour long dark comedy. It’s astoundingly raunchy at the same time that it manages to be sophisticated and sexy (largely thanks to tantalizing shots that keep genitalia just out of frame). The script is fantastic, the actors are fantastic, the direction is fantastic. It’s a great film but the story is depressing and in many ways repulsive. None of these characters are good people, even the people in law enforcement are just assholes, and they all do terrible things to get ahead, which after three hours is very draining. No matter how much you’re laughing at phrases like ‘I’ll never eat at Benihana again,’ you can still leave the theater feeling uncomfortable.

The Wolf of Wall Street is worth seeing but I have no problem saying it didn’t blow me away like I thought it would. I don’t feel compelled to demand you go out and see it, which is weird because it really is very good. You won’t regret seeing it in the theater, but you won’t feel like you miss out on anything if you wait for it to come to streaming services or DVD.

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From → Movies

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