Martin Scorcese is one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived. Yes, I know, what a controversial statement that is! Really though, he deserves all the praise he has got in his life as a filmmaker. The man knows how to make a movie. His longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, knows how to cut a movie. It is because of this that The Wolf of Wall Street is a very smooth ride. Everything glides by at an excellent pace during the movie's 3 hour run time.
So, yes, The Wolf of Wall Street is quite the long movie. Before seeing the movie, I was unsure if I would be able to handle it. I worried that I would dislike the movie and that, at 3 hours length, the movie would feel even longer. This was not the case. The Wolf of Wall Street moves at a brisk pace and is never without excitement to keep the viewer interested. By the end of the movie, I not only felt that it wasn't too long, but that it could have benefited from being a little longer.
A problem that I've noticed a lot of movies have is that, once the main conflict is resolved, the movie ends as soon after as possible. This, I feel is a mistake. Some movies, like this year's Out of the Furnace, benefit from an abrupt ending. An abrupt ending can create a certain feeling that fits with certain movies. However, I feel that a 3 hour movie such as this one deserves an ending that is a little bit more lengthy. So much time is taken to show the rise of the main character in the movie, Jordan Belfort, and so little time is spent on the inevitable downfall. Once Jordan's life starts to crumble around him, the movie suddenly starts skipping around and taking leaps forward in time which makes his fall seem less of a problem than it probably was.
What is more concerning to me though is that the movie doesn't spend much time detailing what happened after his fall. We don't know what inspired Jordan to write his autobiography nor do we even know that he wrote one. The book is never mentioned in the film. What we also don't get is any kind of summary of what has happened in the movie. With the movie featuring narration, I thought that perhaps at the end Jordan Belfort might have one last thing to say about his life. Perhaps he had learned something from all he had experienced. Maybe the reason he wrote his book and let someone make a movie out of it was because he had a reason for telling this story. Well, in the end, we don't get any narration nor any indication of why this story needed to be told.
Now, I don't need a movie to explain everything for me. I don't need characters to tell me what I am supposed to think about a movie. I just thought that Jordan Belfort might have something that he wanted to say. I thought he might want to give some insight onto what he thought of the life he lived. Was the money he made and the excessive life he lived worth it when weighed against the crimes he committed and the people he hurt? I did read a quote from Jordan Belfort before seeing the movie that gave some insight into this, but the movie doesn't shed any light on it at all.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie filled with partying, drugs, and sex all in copious amounts. All of this is due to the ridiculous amounts of money that the main character and his employees made selling stocks on Wall Street. These stocks, made to sound really beneficial to the buyers, were really scams that would get the stock brokers lots of money at the buyers' expense. I won't pretend I understood all the details of what Jordan Belfort and his fellow stock brokers were doing, but the movie doesn't really expect the viewer to. There are multiple times during the movie where Jordan is in the middle of explaining something and then stops mid-sentence and tells the audience that it doesn't really matter that we understand what he is talking about.
The narration is really fun in The Wolf of Wall Street as Leonardo DiCaprio will sometimes even start talking directly to the camera and explain things to us as if we were on some personal guided tour of his life. These moments make Jordan Belfort seem like a good friend to the audience who is really there to please us in anyway he can. Jordan Belfort comes across as a very charming man and credit has to be given to Leonardo DiCaprio in making this happen. This is, by far, my favorite performance I have seen Leonardo DiCaprio give as he just seems to be having so much fun and really makes everything so enjoyable to watch.
Really, the entire movie is a joy to watch from start to finish. It is a movie filled with lots of fun as the many parties seen in the movie are just so excessive that you can't help but be put in a good mood. Except, there is of course, an uncomfortable side to all of it. Some of the things people do during these parties are extremely cringe-worthy. The amount of drugs consumed and the ways in which they are consumed are insanely dangerous. There are also some sexual moments that are just plain wrong. Still, there is a funny side to most of the goings on in this movie even if those things also make you cringe.
Leonardo DiCaprio, as mentioned earlier, is great in this film, but so is everyone else. Particularly excellent is Jonah Hill who plays a role here that is humorous like all of his other roles, but more of a real person than the cartoonish characters he often plays.His character is creepy and downright despicable in many ways and Jonah Hill really deserves credit for perfectly capturing that on screen. His character of Donnie Azoff, based on a real life person, is one of the most memorable of 2013.
The Wolf of Wall Street, in the end, is a very fun look at a life that, on the surface, might seem kind of fun in itself. Really though, I think The Wolf of Wall Street shows the dangers of excess. It shows that, as a character says in the movie, "everyone wants to be rich", but that being rich, in the end may not always be all that desirable. The truth is, however, that any insight gained from the story in this movie is really created by the viewer. The movie never tries to give any message about what is going on in the film. The Wolf of Wall Street simply shows us what happened and lets the viewer decide what to think about it all. While this approach still makes for a very good film, I would have liked to know a little bit about what was going on in Jordan Belfort's mind at certain moments. This is especially true of the end of the movie. So in the end, I would say that The Wolf of Wall Street is a lot like the lifestyle presented in the film. It is a very fun and exciting journey while it lasts, but it is devoid of much meaning and can leave one with a little guilt over enjoying watching criminals having so much fun at other peoples' expenses.