For some reason, after a long drive, we decided to watch a movie at home. We narrowed it to two choices: Blade: Trinity or The Wolf of Wall Street. We chose poorly.
It was well-made. I mean, with Scorsese at the helm and with that cast, how could it not be? It was funny in parts, and the debauchery was jaw-dropping the first time we encountered it. But…I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored by a film. By the time it enters its third hour, I just wanted it to be over. In the past, I’ve criticized directors for taking shortcuts, for using montages to indicate a rising or falling action without actually taking you through the whole thing. I finally get why they do that.
For all the craftsmanship, this was a story so familiar that you could guess the beats from reading a one-sentence synopsis. Very little happened that you haven’t seen before, only it’s shown a with a good deal more graphic flare in The Wolf of Wall Street: He starts out naive, he starts from nothing, builds a massive fortune by breaking the rules, refuses to recognize the warning signs, and then is undone by his own hubris (sort of, since he never really gets any comeuppance and there’s no growth to his arc).
Naturally, he starts out with a loving, supportive wife who is “Hollywood homely” who will be dumped for a trophy wife midway through the film and never, ever even talked about again. I would say this was a spoiler, but the movie is five years old and, besides, if you didn’t see this coming, you have literally never seen a Hollywood movie.
Women are not treated well in this film. With the exception of the first wife and perhaps the second wife’s aunt, they’re just objects. This point is hammered home over and over, well beyond the threshold of “gratuitous”. There’s a little homophobia tossed in as well. I get that these guys were not meant to be thought of as “heroes”, but we got the point the first five or six times.
Of course, if they’re not meant to be heroes, then what are the guys in this film? They’re just “guys”, guys who cheat on their wives, spend all of their money on drugs and prostitutes, steal from their customers, screw each other over, and break the law without a second thought. It feels like, in an effort to distance himself from Oliver Stone’s preachy Wall Street, Scorsese refrained from passing any judgement whatsoever on his characters no matter how richly they deserved it.
Ultimately, though, the biggest sin of The Wolf of Wall Street is that it was just so boring. There was a good, sub-two hour film in there somewhere that would have been taut, funny, edgy, and, most importantly, would have ended without overstaying its welcome. I might have liked that film, but The Wolf of Wall Street was just an aimless mess of a film that wasn’t anywhere near funny enough to warrant its running time.