Last night, The Wolf Of Wall Street premiered in New York City and Business Insider got to check it out.
There’s no question that it’s an epic film in terms of scale, but at times it gets so lost in itself — in the debauchery, the opulence, and the excess — that it forgets that the audience is watching a story. And stories need to move at a steady clip.
That isn’t to say that ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ isn’t enjoyable, it is, but there are few times when you feel that director Martin Scorsese is so obsessed with re-creating the world of the wolf, that the story of main characterJordan Belfort suffers.
Belfort, played by Leonard DiCaprio, is a kid from Queens with big dreams of making it on Wall Street. He starts working at Rothschilds in 1987 where he meets his first boss, played by Matthew McConaughey.
In one of the first scenes, McConauhey takes the young, innocent Belfort to lunch at Windows of the World and explains Wall Street to him.
It is during that speech that you realise that this movie is 2/3rd brilliant comedy. McConaughey is perfect. The way he explains Wall Street money as a fantasy, its salesmen as crooked soldiers, and its clients as idiots, is incredibly hilarious and more importantly, accurate.
That is the speech that turned Belfort into a wolf. When the stock market crashes on Black Monday, he goes to work for a hole-in-the-wall Long Island penny stock firm. That’s where the wolf learns to hunt. It’s how he learns he can sell anything to anyone if he lies, and that he can teach anyone else to do it too.
It’s how the scam, his firm Stratton-Oakmont, is born.
That first hour in which Belfort finds his band of merry menaces, builds his firm, and becomes a debauched adulterating drug addict is incredibly funny. It moves fast, and Jonah Hill’s character, Danny Azoff, steals the show. Hill’s voice is perfect, his prosthetic teeth are perfect, and like McConaughey’s character, you an see the greed on his face. It’s human and it’s honest.
This where Scorsese shines. The movie is a lot like ‘Goodfellas’. DiCaprio speaks to the camera with the same intensity as Ray Liotta, though he’s got way better clothes. Scorsese, for his part, captures the dynamic of Stratton-Oakmont’s close criminals so well that it feels like you’re part of the family.
That sense of family gets complicated in the next hour, as you see Belfort go completely nuts. He leaves his wife for a Long Island princess named Naomi, played by Margot Robbi, who matches (if not surpasses) DiCaprio’s intensity.
The lady is really seductive, and so is Belfort’s life. Yachts, cars, having sex on piles of money, crazy private planes to Vegas, tons and tons of drugs. It’s all there. This is where Scorsese can lose us. It’s clear that he wants to capture every moment of Belfort’s spiral. The film smacks of a morality play.
As Belfort loses control, the story slows down. A such, the movie was long, long, long. A bunch of scenes should have been cut, especially because there are two major things that the movie was missing.
First, the victims. There were people that lost their life savings with Stratton-Oakmont, and they were nowhere to be found in the film. This makes it hard to see Belfort as the true criminal that he was.
Second, Belfort had mob ties. The mob is Scorsese’s wheelhouse, so it’s a wonder that the connection didn’t make it into the film. Could’ve been fun, as fun as his spot-on presentation of a shady Swiss banker — as fun as the porn star facial hair on Belfort’s drug dealing high school friend.
All in all though, the film is a party, and not just because of the drugs and debauchery. It’s because the movie sounds like a party — the soundtrack brings back Jock Jams mix CDs and Limelight club anthems.
Plus Leonardo DiCaprio can dance. Go ahead brother. GO. AHEAD.