A Tale of Excess
Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a tale of excess in more ways than one. On one hand it is the story of Jordan Belfort whose life of crime as a dodgy stock broker was full of excess and it is a movie which is full of excess, lacking in moderation which are words I never thought I would hear myself saying about a Scorsese movie.
Now I won't go into great deal about the synopsis because "The Wolf of Wall Street" is simple. Belfort ended up trading penny stocks when he ended up out of a job as the first day as a stock broker coincided with the Wall Street crash. But trading penny stocks was like a licence to print money and over time he set up his own stock brokerage business, making millions, hiding millions more and leading along with his workers a life of excess be it strippers in the office or becoming addicted to drugs. Until of course his world comes crashing down with the FBI on his tail.
Okay pretty straight forwards, a rags to riches to sort of rags story and Scorsese treats Belfort's story in the same way he treated those true stories of mobsters. As such "The Wolf of Wall Street" has a very familiar style, we get the journey of Belfort being the innocent kid on Wall Street to millionaire salesman, all of which is accompanied by narration, Belfort occasionally talking directly to the camera and of course the trademark Scorsese soundtrack and long one take scenes with a moving camera. For fans of Scorsese's it delivers what he does best and in many ways from a technical aspect it is almost faultless.
And "The Wolf of Wall Street" in typical Scorsese style has an impressive cast of many familiar faces all playing very large characters be it Jonah Hill as the annoying Donnie or Margot Robbie as Belfort's attractive wife Naomi. Plus of course at the centre of this is Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort who has proven before what a great actor he is and he shows it all here making Belfort a salesman, a smooth talking hustler who dreamed big and lived bigger. Basically everything up until now has been typically up to Scorsese's high standards.
But here is the kicker, it seems that Scorsese got carried away with the excess of Belfort's lifestyle and went over board to the extent that the majority of the movie is all about the excess. That means copious sex scenes, copious amounts of nudity, copious scenes of drug taking and it is all done to excess. Maybe Belfort's life was that full of excess but it makes "The Wolf of Wall Street" a movie which becomes less about the story and what scene of debauchery can we show next; blow job in a car, why not, dwarf tossing, hell yes, orgies, well why not. It is simply too much and ends up often feeling like a movie out of control with the cast having more fun making all these scenes of excess than the audience is having watching them.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wolf of Wall Street" needed moderating, it needed control so that it didn't just become a spectacle of excess and debauchery. Despite that there is no denying that Scorsese is a craftsman and DiCaprio is a great actor, I just wish they had taken a step back and said is this movie out of balance.