Appropriately the first time I saw The Wolf of Wall Street I was hungover; but this means I didn’t really get to watch it properly. We started late, I drifted in and out of sleep, and all in all it was not the best time to be watching a film, let alone a three-hour Scorsese bonanza. I remember being as entertained as you can be when lying on a friends floor trying to stay awake, but I reserved judgement until I got round to watching again.
Over Christmas this opportunity arose, and the first thing which struck me was, and many people will probably hate me for saying this, that it is distinctly overrated. The hype around this film was enormous, but I can’t see what all the fuss was about.
Now I am a massive Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but for a moment let’s take off our “we love Leo” hats and stop browsing sites such as FilmsLeoShouldHaveWonAnOscarFor.com and look at this with a relatively unbiased opinion. He is very good in The Wolf of Wall Street and there are some pretty amusing moments; but the way people spoke about this film you’d think they had just seen something better than Goodfellas. Which I assure you they had not.
Some say The Wolf of Wall Street is too over the top: for me this isn’t a problem. Sometimes you need films to be excessive due to their subject nature, and this is one of them. Like it or not, this is the life that some people lead. There’s no point sugar-coating it, because the sugar would taste like shite. But at the same time, it needs to be more than just over the top.
When I get the OTT itch, there is no film which will suffice other than Scarface: which has a raw edge and intensity that has turned it into a cult-classic. The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t have this: it’s lacking something.
But despite what some people badgered on about at the time, that something isn’t morality. I have a moral compass of my own thanks, and I don’t need films to have a clear message in order to know what’s right and wrong. Those who criticised the film based on this premise baffle me. Their story was immoral and they didn’t get much comeuppance: that is what should make you annoyed.
So it doesn’t have the edge of Scarface and it doesn’t have the injection of morality which you get from something like Blow (which is also much better), so what then is missing from The Wolf of Wall Street?
I think it’s character.
Now that might sound strange, because I’ve already mentioned how good Leo’s acting is: Jonah Hill is also decent (though I’m not sure about his Oscar nomination), and Margot Robbie plays her role well too. But the problem isn’t the acting: it’s the people they are portraying. I can’t think of a single person that I had particularly strong feelings for either way. Sure, they have their moments, but in terms of emotional investment, there is little. Did I care what happened to them? Nope. Because really, who cares about a bunch of stockbrokers who made all their money screwing people over?
It’s a fun ride and an entertaining watch; but like the characters, I think The Wolf of Wall Street is ultimately hollow. I am glad to have seen it and if you haven’t there is much worse out there, but then again there is also so much better. From the Scorsese-DiCaprio partnership that has previously excelled in borderline three-hour epics, in the form of The Aviator, Gangs of New York, and The Departed: The Wolf of Wall Street certainly had potential. But this time I was left disappointed.
Like 300 before it and people shouting “Spartans! What is your profession?” I think The Wolf of Wall Street will now take over the mantle as the champion film of lad culture. As soon as you finish watching you can already hear the wannabe guys at parties, beating their chests to Matthew McConaughey’s humming-chant, thinking they’re cool, while any girls present turn away embarrassed.
The Wolf of Wall Street is therefore more likely to turn into a cliché than a classic. And just as the Spartan chants faded eventually so will the McConaughey-humming.
The party’s over guys: time to move on.