Friday, January 17, 2014

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN:I finished seeing all the major Oscar nominees today with Wolf of Wall Street, and figure folks might want some space to talk about it.  As for me, I thought the performances were very good (especially DiCaprio and Margot Robbie), but the film as a whole didn't entirely work--there wasn't a strong enough narrative arc--either it needed to be a caper kind of film where we expressly root for the "bad guys" (a la American Hustle) or we needed to devote more time to the "cop" side of the story.  I did want to address two things that have come up in much criticism:

1.  "The Movie Is Morally Repugnant/Approving of Belfort's Conduct"--It's absolutely true that there's no moral authority figure in the film (or at least not a prominent one), aside from Kyle Chandler's underdeveloped FBI Agent, nor does Belfort get a substantial comeuppance in the end (though he does go to prison for 4 years).  I think this Jezebel piece does a good job of articulating what I think Scorsese was probably trying for, though I'm not sure how effective it is.  I'm sure that there will be folks who watch it and take the wrong message, but that's true of a lot of things.

2.  "The Movie Is Too Long"--This is absolutely true--at 3 hours, the level of debauchery is almost numbing, and an assuredly highly-expensive sojurn to Europe and shipwreck scene could easily have been cut with basically no harm to the film.  (In addition, at 3 hours plus trailers, it tests the human bladder--never a fun thing.)  However, Scorsese has claimed to have had difficulty cutting it down from four hours, and there's clearly stuff left on the cutting room floor (I'm assuming McConaughey's part was originally a fair bit larger, as was Rob Reiner's).  I wonder what it would have looked like as a 6 week "limited series event" on HBO, sort of like how they did Angels In America.  Spend an hour with Belfort's introduction to the world of stocks through him finding penny stocks, an hour with the rise of Stratton Oakmont, an hour with the Steve Madden IPO, an hour with the European sojurn, an hour ending with Belfort agreeing to turn informer, and an hour final epilogue.  By breaking it over 6 weeks, you don't have the sensory overload.

1 comment:

  1. Adam B.10:55 PM

    Saw it tonight. I don't see how anyone could think any audience members could end up admiring Belfort given his final sequence with his wife, but ... yeah, I didn't think the film was quite effective enough if the point was to indict capitalism/greed in general.

    Part of what I'm left with is wondering how much of this is the story of The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock had he chosen the plastics path -- I ask because of the two strong Graduate homages I picked up on. Obviously, there's the use of The Lemonheads' Mrs Robinson cover at the end, but also the very deliberate framing of Belfort under his wife's bent leg in the kid's room on the floor. Scorsese doesn't do things accidentally.