DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don't like pantomime.
As it turns out I am also not particularly fond of messed up, Bacchus driven, deprived pantomime in the hands of Scorcese.
I love Scorcese. Even when some of his films don't speak to me there is always the feeling that you're in the hands of a competent and skilled filmmaker with a clear sense of style and a great ability to weave a tale. In that respect the Wolf of Wall Street is an odd beast. It's hard to ignore some of the absolutely brilliant directorial prowess Scorcese puts on display. There are long, beautifully choreographed shots alternated with some frenetic scenes in which he betrays a keen sense of comedic timing. Yet for every good choice he makes, he seems to make a bad one as well, making this an overlong and bloated mess, with a terribly uneven script to match it.
For three hours we get to see Jordan Belfort go from wannabe asshole to complete and utter asshole. Now, for all intents and purposes that is a character arc, it's just not one I want to be stuck with for such a long time. The entirety is so over the top that it exceeds any satirical potential it might have and lands smack dab in the middle of farcical comedy, losing any possibility of taking something from it as it gets overshouted by all its own sound and fury.
I cannot get over the ludicrous running time. I'm sure that, as it is based on Belfort's biography, all the acts of debauchery must be fun to read, but watching them pass by in a showreel for two and a half hours got very tiresome. I can't say that I was bored, I was just numb after a while seeing the narrative slowly get burried under an avalanche of repetitive nonsense. Every time I got the sensation that we'd get an inkling of character development or a glimpse of a reality filled with real people I could connect to, Scorcese pulls the rug from under you and veers off towards yet another drug infused party. I am fully aware that is probably not the point to connect to the characters here, but I want to understand them and that just doesn't happen, unless they're all one-dimensional, greed driven bastards, in which case you really don't need three hours to relate their antics. I guess that that's where the satire is supposed to lie, but it just isn't dealt with cleverly enough to really say anything about it.
After all these superficial shenanigans, the final half hour suddenly lands in an out of place tonal shift that, in itself, holds scenes that are excellent and among the best in the film, but in the film makes no sense at all. You can't all of a sudden start to invest in and explore potential drama and characterization after 150 minutes of ignoring them. Exemplary of the frustratingly messy nature of the film.
The acting is excellent, especially from the supporting cast. Hill channels some sort of coked up Jerry Lewis and fits the style of most of the film perfectly. Reiner, McConnaughey, Robbie they're all fine. Which brings me to DiCaprio. I think he's a great actor and is unbelievably talented. The thing is, with his latest films I always get the feeling I'm watching a DiCaprio Performance. This is no exception. He is obviously having fun with it, but he never seems to completely lose himself in his character. He just doesn't seem to be able to take himself out of the equation. I'm sure that the brashness of his performance will win many people over, especially come award season, it just didn't do it for me. Should the Academy give him an Oscar for this, that, to me, would feel like a pity fuck (pardon my French).
The weird thing is that I see the appeal. I fully understand why so many people like this. It's crude, brash and over the top. It has, despite its flaws, more quality in it than most films. But in the end it did absolutely nothing for me. Style, plot, narrative, they all missed their mark, making this a very long three hours leaving me with a film that I consider to be one of Scorcese's weakest films.