The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street ★★★

What happened to Mark Hanna?

Right around the two-hour mark, when the film feels like it is drawing to a natural conclusion, and Belfort gives the SEC the middle finger, I started wondering what happened to Mark Hanna, the character portrayed in the opening minutes by Matthew McConaughey. He seemed like a central figure swept under the rug for this two hour joyride through deprecation, debauchery, and dividends.

The fact that I was distracted by a minor character whose presence had been absent for two hours in a film that was never really about him was one of many mental diversions I made during Scorsese's latest effort, a quasi-biopic that borders on magical realism.

I should have started by mentioning that most of Scorsese's efforts regarding champagne wishes and caviar dreams a la Casino fall flat on me. The main characters are generally unlikeable, hardly complicated, whose only flaws represent an idealism of the American dream that I can't relate to.

Empathy of character is an important trait for a central character, and the film's cursory efforts regarding Jordan Belfort's humble beginnings do little to develop the lynchpin of any character portrait such as this.

It's loud and never subtle, which is the point; the 80's were boisterous and conspicuous, and Wall Street in particular epitomized that decade's ideals well into the 90's. The decadence on display might occasionally feel satirical, and though that intent is well-measured, it never really felt like satire more than idolization of a bygone era where one version of the American dream was at least somewhat attainable. The last forty-five minutes begins down the narrow path of repentance and regret, but is washed away by an unrelenting desire to maintain the status quo.

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