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ADVANCE: The Wolf of Wall Street - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: The Wolf of Wall Street
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

Martin Scorsese has established such a long and storied career that people have long felt obliged to indulge him. One wonders if he is even capable of making a short movie anymore. Even 2011's Hugo, at 126 minutes, was short by Scorsese standards. At least that one had the advantage of being the best movie of the year.

The Wolf of Wall Street -- not so much. It has some great sequences, but at two hours and forty-five minutes, in the end it's a little less than the sum of its parts. Given the subject matter, though, this movie is surprisingly entertaining; it just makes the mistake of over-staying its welcome.

Leonardo DiCaprio returns for his fifth collaboration with Scorsese as Jordan Belfort, the real-life stock broker who wrote the book, of the same title, on which this film is based. As adapted by Terence Winter, it tries a bit too hard to cram in as much of Belfort's story as possible, from his humble beginnings to living on top to an FBI takedown. This covers a lot of years, and we didn't really need to see all of them.

In the middle of this, Scorsese slips in several great sequences. In one, a drug-addicted Jordan is so high on Quaaludes that he has to crawl out of a country club on the floor and ground to his car. That was pretty funny. In another, a panicking Jordan insists on sailing through "choppy waters" that turn out to be so dangerous that everyone on the boat has to be rescued. That was pretty exciting.

Scorsese makes the curious choice of having Jordan narrate the story, presumably in deference to the book. It's done in an oddly cheeky way that reflects Jordan's unchecked ego, but which is at times distracting. But this is how we discover the star-studded cast of supporting characters: Jonah Hill as his business partner Donny; Jean Dujardin (the guy who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Artist; Rob Reiner as Jordan's dad; Kyle Chandler as the FBI agent investigating him; even Absolutely Fabulous's Joanna Lumley as Jordan's wife's English aunt. This is just to name a few. Jordan goes through a lot in his vast quest for ever-greater riches.

The Wolf of Wall Street certainly doesn't make stock brokers look like very good or moral people. I haven't read Jordan Belfort's book, so I can't speak to its tone, but his tone in the movie hardly veers from him being pleased with himself. His dad talks early on in warnings about "chickens coming home to roost," and indeed that occurs. But Jordan is a self-made man obsessed with rejecting defeat. Things get dark: in one sequence nearly as harrowing as the storm at sea, Jordan abuses his wife and in a coke-addled state tries to drive away with their young daughter.

It's difficult to gauge how much we're supposed to sympathize with Jordan Belfort, if at all. This is one of the movie's problems: who are we supposed to root for? It's impossible to root for Jordan, unless you're a fellow soulless stock broker. The guy lives in obscene excess and makes that living by swindling people. It's tempting to conclude that Scorsese is saying that's what all stock brokers do. I suppose if there's anyone to sympathize with, it's the FBI guy. He doesn't get nearly as much screen time, though.

At best, The Wolf of Wall Street is an uneven yet entertaining tale of greed getting the best of a man. It might have been excellent, if the editors had been a little more ruthless with the bloat. But this movie has a huge cast and it's clear that a lot was cut as it was. This might be a story best suited for a book. As a movie, though, considering the stellar cast and its several great scenes, I guess it could have done worse.

Leonardo DiCaprio toasts to being THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Overall: B

Opens Christmas Day.
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