A brief note on WOLF OF WALL STREET (English; 2013)

I must confess this film left me a bit cold, at least insofar as it wasn’t simply a vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio to try and win an Oscar. Leo is pretty darn good as Jordan Belfort, the self-made millionaire stockbroker who never saw a corner he couldn’t cut, playing him with just the right amount of obnoxiousness and arriviste air, but the film seemed indulgent, and tonally inconsistent. At times farce, comedy, and grim commentary on America’s (and perhaps the world’s) cult of money, the film is littered with brilliant moments — a couple of DiCaprio’s addresses on the Stratton Oakmont floor stand out — but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. For that reason, it will be worth re-visiting in bits and pieces, on DVD.

But there is something Scorsese gets right, that no other such film does, certainly not in so comprehensive a way. Other films document a fall from grace caused by hubris, without disturbing the essential glamor of the central character. Scorsese and DiCaprio don’t take this route, and the film is relentless in showing the degradation to which Belfort’s character sinks (the final drug overdose; the sequence where DiCaprio gets violent with his wife, are cases in point). The easy titillation of Belfort’s enjoyment of his wealth isn’t where this film stops; it’s where it starts to get interesting. It ends up some editing away from greatness.


31 Responses to “A brief note on WOLF OF WALL STREET (English; 2013)”

  1. it is cold and brutal

    brutal drug overdose,sex overdose, orgies, corruption but nothing on victims in the end which also include his companion thanks to him

    a gradual development towards insanity of main protagonist which was common in taxi driver,shutter island, aviator etc gets repeated ala in more commercial and large frame

    leo is repeatative but is owned by matthew mcconaughey in smaller who one heard has great performances like mud and dallas buyer club in same year but in different physicality(yet to see both)


  2. “But there is something Scorsese gets right, that no other such film does, certainly not in so comprehensive a way. Other films document a fall from grace caused by hubris, without disturbing the essential glamor of the central character. Scorsese and DiCaprio don’t take this route, and the film is relentless in showing the degradation to which Belfort’s character sinks ..” this itself is such a phenomenal achievement that to say that he bits don’;t add to a whole is grossly unfair. I thought the film was marvelous: unrelentingly honest, spiced with great humour, bursting with energy and sporting great performances all around. Enjoyed it thoroughly.


  3. To add to Qalandar, I also felt there were many repetitive scenes which made the movie a bit too long, and also the humour on certain occasion felt too stretched. Leo was fantastic in the film, but somehow the character and performance by mcconaughey hovered over the rest of the film, setting the bar too high to level.


  4. I loved the film and your last paragraph rings true throughout. It does not seem at any point, the relentless or “conscious” of the protagonist slackens.
    But I found it unbelievably hilarious, rude, obnoxious…it’s a riot of a film, if only too long.
    And far superior to American Hustle which in hindsight, I’d only watch to ogle at Jennifer Lawrence again!


    • No way! I loved American hustle, although that’s a post for a different day 🙂


      • I liked WOWS more than you did, American Hustle less than you did!


        • Same here … I’d like to hear what you liked about American Hustle though. It was a decent enough film but failed to grip me like WOWS.
          I also saw 12 years a slave and liked it. Definitely the most emotive of the 3 and rather graphic.


          • Despite that rhetorical flourish there I didn’t like American Hustle very much. Some of the performances worked but I too was never really into the film. Loved 12 Years a Slave. Older comment on this:

            [After watching all kinds of violence on screen from the literal variety in dramas or what have you to the ‘historical trauma’ types one tends to get desensitized. But McQueen really makes this subject improbably fresh. And by not showing that much actual violence. It;s a tremendously upsetting film. And Dargis was right. this film decisively rips the curtain off the whole Gone with the wind view if Souther gentility. Even otherwise I don’t believe there’s another film on the subject quite like this one. Between Django and this there have suddenly been two very strong films on this subject.]


          • I found it very disturbing in portions, very raw and real. Some of the scenes are like you say very upsetting. Had a weekend free to see all three Oscar hopefuls and would say all 3 had a kind of repetition to them and could have done with some editing. American Hustle just lacked hustle ironically. It did not move at a canter. The characters and performances were fine all round but I’d have liked a bit of action in some scenes. WOWS moved so fast, but after a while it did feel like it was too long. 12 years a slave, so graphic was the man’s ordeal and that lady’s – I really just wanted to see the scenes where he survives and goes back to normality. I liked Brad Pitt’s cameo.
            Liked Django too


          • by the way a great recent guilty pleasure is Escape Plan. Lot of fun!


          • Have you seen Nebraska? I’m not a great fan of this director really, but this might be my single favorite Alexander Payne film.


    • Far preferred this to American Hustle as well. The latter seemed to me like a well-fashioned con film that’s been overrated this season. It’s a good movie but it plays by the rules. WOWS is a messier beast. I found Scorsese’s film overlong (rare for his work which always has longer than normal running times but never make the audience feel it) so “some editing away from greatness” is a sentiment I’d echo too but this is a work that’s more subversive than it’s been given credit for in the press who appear more interested in Leo in full Jack Nicholson mode.


      • Rajenmaniar Says:

        I am with Q here. Would take American Hustle over this. Wolf is certainly worth watching as there are a lot of positives but too indulgent at times. The sex and drugs scenario gets tiring very soon but unfortunately keeps on repeating itself and grates after a while. Hustle is more even and has top notch performances. Better story, bravura performances by an ensemble cast, more rivetting!


  5. omrocky786 Says:

    Great review old Sport….
    This and the Great Gatsby are on my to watch list, am listening to the audiobook of The Great Gatsby which is only 6 disks long which means the book was probably just 100 pages !!!


  6. in india when oscar festival was on watched it

    high point was interaction of robert de niro and christian bale even it was for only one scene

    another con movie with reverse con played…nothing special but certainly great cast and performances

    with due respect to amy adams jennifer lawrence was to hot on glamour quotient


  7. From Gatsby to Draper & Gray

    Just saw a billboard of Leo staring down the WOWS poster -I paused and gazed at it briefly. This prompted me to jot down some characteristic random nonsense also termed as my personal ‘experiments with truth’

    It’s an understatement that I really love these three ‘fictional’ ‘characters’ (note the oxymorons at play)-be it Gatsby or Don Draper or Christian Gray. Infact I’m convinced they are not really three different entities but one– a continuum or a progression (or ‘degradation’ if one prefers to call that!). They have also moved on with time and learnt certain era-appropriate defense mechanisms. The American dream aka Gatsby, is only a starting point really, branching off onto curiosities like ‘control issues’, a ‘dark past’ and a common inability to show up or grow up! The twinning of sheer asshollery and suave titillatory charisma happens unobtrusively.

    Achievement (of various sorts) like capitalist / material wealth creates its own conveniences & powers. This serves as an alluring temptation. But the attendant emptiness and damnation isn’t far behind. The coexistent elation and the guilt-laden depression are stuck together like fuck-buddies!

    There’s a lot more common to these ‘characters’-a disconnection from reality being one of the primary characteristics. An alternate universe where it’s better to ‘loom’ rather than ‘arrive’ is the order of the day. Contempt, self-doubt and narcissism are usually words with negative connotations (obviously c’mon but not here!). The cultivated escapism wherein one is not ‘connected’ or bothered enough or not alive enough to feel loss or extreme attachment is convenient really. Setting the goals onto something impossible affords another luxury of sorts-To remain in this space forever…. In this state of detached bliss.

    I have deliberately not seen the Wolf of Wall Street yet… But I do wish to welcome a new entrant to this ‘select club’ of my favorites!

    Finally- “You’re happy because you’re successful, for now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

    Happiness is also over-rated.


    • omrocky786 Says:

      That is great comment Apex and I believe you are right that all three characters have a deep connection.
      I also believe that like them you my dear has also had an unpleasant past , par koi naheen, SatyamShot sabko theek karta hai !! LOL!!


  8. “That is great comment Apex”—
    It’s not a ‘review’ as usual but a commentary of sorts..
    Thanx omrocky –& u r a great guy as well…old sport…
    May check out wows in a week or so..(properly)


  9. Just when I was gearing up to watch wolf (contd from above)- came across ‘Her’…suggested by some1
    Seems a gr8 soundtrack–like the cast & concept
    So many flicks to catch up…cant do em all


  10. HER is an outstanding movie and Phoenix is simply marvelous. As usual, he is going to be ignored at the Academy. He was run over for THE MASTER. Expected the same to happen here too. The academy simply doesn’t deserve an actor like Phoenix..


  11. It left me cold as well. Still, as you note Di Caprio gives an electrifying performance and the film is stylistic and with plenty of towering moments.

    My own Top Ten of 2013:

    1. 12 Years A Slave
    2. Short Term 12
    3. Wadjda
    4. Her
    5. My Brother the Devil
    6. The Great Beauty
    7. Blue is the Warmest Color
    8. The Past
    9. Nebraska
    10. (tie) To the Wonder
    The Hunt


  12. so I started watching the Robert Redford version of Gatsby on Netflix , but had to shut is after 20 minutes. It was slow and boring.
    will be watching the Bachchan version soon……


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