Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hungry Like a Wolf (a movie review post)

There are, occasionally, those movies that come along where the best response I can generate for them is, "Well, that was interesting." The Wolf of Wall Street is one of those movies.
It's not a bad movie--certainly, the performances are great--but I can't say that it was a good movie, either. It... well, it just was.

I suppose the main issue I have with it is that I'm not sure what the movie was trying to say. What it was about. Sure, the movie is about Jordan Belfort, but, usually, when you make a movie about someone's life, it's because you think there is a message people can take away from the story about that person's life. For instance:
12 Years a Slave: Survive. Plus, you know, slavery is bad.
Dallas Buyers Club: Don't succumb to the system if the system is wrong. Plus, you know, rich, white men don't care about anything other than taking your money from you.
Saving Mr. Banks: Creation is a personal act and the creation remains a part of the creator. As Walt said about Mickey, "He's family."
Those are just some of the ones from this year. But I don't get a sense that there is any real message in Wolf. No underlying theme. Maybe the movie is just too chaotic for that. At any rate, I didn't feel like I came away with anything at the end of the movie other than Belfort was really screwed up.

All of the characters are screwed up. Or too flat to be screwed up. Like Belfort's first wife; she's not screwed up, not in the movie, anyway, but we never see her as anything other than this background character that is mistreated. And the FBI guy doesn't seem to be screwed up, but he's "FBI Guy" and can't be screwed up, because that's his cutout. The rest of the characters are just screwed up.

Also, I'm pretty sure it's not just me that has an issue with discerning a meaning in this movie. Well, my wife didn't see one, either. But! In doing my research, I found a reviewer who went to see this in a theater full of the kind of financial guys that Belfort was. They certainly saw the movie differently from me as the reviewer said they cheered "in all the wrong places." When Belfort would do something bad (like when, after he's sober, he rips up his couch to get at his hidden stash of drugs), the guys in the theater would cheer for him. I take that to mean that there is no clear message in the movie, because, if there was, those people would not be cheering.

But maybe Scorsese did it that way on purpose? Maybe he's just presenting the story of the man's life and letting people come away with their own message? Certainly, the actors (DiCaprio and Hill) have taken a lot of flak over their portrayals (which I just don't get; why is Scorsese not taking any heat over it? He's the one that presented it the way it is), that they were glorifying the drug use and partying and, well, everything that they do in the movie. I can understand why some people might think that the movie is an endorsement of that behavior. The problem is that you just can't tell.

Not to mention that the movie resorts to that starting in the middle of the action thing and then jumps back to the beginning. For no purpose, evidently, other than to start with dwarf tossing. Why? It doesn't make the story better. It serves no purpose within the story. Why does everyone and their dog feel like you have to start somewhere in the middle and then go back to the beginning to explain whatever weirdness you're seeing? It's a cheap trick, and I'm so tired of it.

There's also that the movie is three hours long. Three hours long of wondering what the point is to get to the end to find out that there was no point. Granted, it was a quick three hours due to the frenetic pace of the movie, but not really a satisfying three hours. And it was three hours after being cut down for being too long. It makes me wonder what they took out.

Anyway... I'm actually disappointed that this movie has received a best picture nomination and that Scorsese has received a best director nomination. I suppose I can't fault them for the best actor and supporting actor nominations, because they did deliver great performances, although, as my wife pointed out, the character of Belfort has become DiCaprio's norm, so it wasn't a stretch for him. There's not a great chance he'll win, anyway, so I can live with the nomination.

In the end, I think what's happening with this movie is what happens with any movie like this that critics can't figure out: Instead of just saying they don't know, they say it's great. That way they mask their ignorance. Personally, I think Scorsese missed with this one and everyone is too afraid to say so.


  1. Three freaking hours? Ugh, no thanks.

    This movie is an iffy one, as my fiance wants to see it and it's very much a "his" movie, but I did drag him to American Hustle. Did it remind you of that one at all? I felt the same way you did about this movie as I did about AH- some great characters, but the movie itself was a bit "meh."

    At least I know what I'm getting into. Thanks for the review :) I hope this movie doesn't get a "Greed is Good" cult following and just fades.

  2. Three hours of the f-bomb - no wonder it boasts the most of any film.
    I'd heard it had no message. The previews didn't convey a plot either. I still want to see it, but will wait for NetFlix.

  3. I tend to have a pretty narrow focus on the types of movies I want to see. This is not one of those movies. Funny thing about DiCaprio, although I'm not sure how much I like him as an actor, I think he tends to chose really interesting roles. Kind of like Marky Mark for me, I mean, I think DiCaprio is a better actor, but like Marky Mark, he picks roles that just seem interesting to me.

    That is the only thing that made me nominally interested in this movie. I respect his choices in picking parts to play enough that I think there is a chance I'd like it. Although, I still don't know when I will ever see this.

  4. All this looks like to me is a remake of "Wall Street" or every other finance-themed movie ever made so I'll probably wait until the DVD to watch it.

  5. Yet another movie for psychopaths, about psychopaths, by psychopaths?

  6. I'm not surprised it's doing so well. I think any Scorcese film will get an automatic 4 stars because of his body of work. With the F-bomb and the pool scene I know I'm not going to the theater to watch it. Now I might wait for the ABC movie of the week. Do they still do those?

  7. Doesn't appeal to me I must say. I am a very placid movie goer and don't search for messages, but the whole thing sounds off for me. I don't want to see people "doing drugs" thanks. He doesn't sound like the kind of character who would appeal.

  8. I hate it when books/movies/whatever start with an action scene and then jump to the beginning. That smacks of bad writing all around.

  9. OH, man. I had a whole comment where I talked about how Leonardo is a good actor, Scorcese is not that big a deal to me, and mentioned that maybe Scorcese was doing a Tom Wolfe thing with this where he's just reporting rather than telling a story, and then BLOGGER ATE IT. It was pretty good, too. I don't know what's wrong with my computer today. Stupid machines.

    *I DIDN'T MEAN THAT, FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS*. But seriously, my other comment was better.

  10. OH, man. I had a whole comment where I talked about how Leonardo is a good actor, Scorcese is not that big a deal to me, and mentioned that maybe Scorcese was doing a Tom Wolfe thing with this where he's just reporting rather than telling a story, and then BLOGGER ATE IT. It was pretty good, too. I don't know what's wrong with my computer today. Stupid machines.

    *I DIDN'T MEAN THAT, FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS*. But seriously, my other comment was better.

  11. Jean: Oh, man, American Hustle was SO much better. You should check my review on that.

    Alex: Yeah, pretty much.

    Rusty: It's not a movie I would just decide to see, either.
    I think DiCaprio is a good actor, really good, actually; but I'm not sure how versatile he is.

    Pat: Wall Street, at least, had a message to it.

    Elizabeth: Yeah...

    Maurice: If they made this movie suitable for TV, there wouldn't be anything left.

    Jo: Well, he's certainly not someone I would ever hang out with.

    Jeanne: Me, too! Hatehatehate

    Briane: I'm not sure what he was doing; all I know is that my response as we left the theater was, "Well, that was interesting." That's not the response you want to leave a movie with.

  12. I'm sure saying 'Scorsese missed' is a bit blasphemous in certain reviewer circles. So it takes one of us to say it.

    I didn't see the movie. Didn't have much desire to. And not just because a restless mind (read: ADHD) keeps me from sitting through most movies. It just seems like the uber-successful fornicator has been done and done and done. And this didn't stand out to me.

    By the way, you're right - Starting in the middle of a story and then screeching to a halt to say "Thirteen days ago..." is totally exhausted.
    If it's for the sake of an epic intro, maybe they should examine their actual intro and beef it up instead of relying on dated and cliched tactics.

  13. Hm. Looks like I'll be skipping this film for now...


  14. David: I'm sure that's true about Scorsese, but, honestly, I don't think this is the first time he's missed.
    And you're right; this movie doesn't cover any new territory.

    The Beans: Probably just as well.
    Thanks for dropping in!

  15. Scorcese has set an awfully high bar for himself, too. Anything short of breath-taking genius feels like a let down.

    We haven't seen it - don't know if we will. I am intrigued by the bit about the finance guys cheering in all the wrong place. He touched a nerve - just not one most of us have.

  16. TAS: I suppose I have never been overly impressed with Scorsese. His crowning achievement has always seemed to be his use of "language."

  17. Yeah, you know that movie Dicaprio did a few years back with Daniel Day Lewis set in the early American years (can't think of the name) was the same way. Outstanding performances but WTH? The story was wacky and blah.

  18. Also, as an author who's personal views have been questioned in regards to the use of drugs in her story, I can say that my job is to tell the story authentically and take no stand as to whether or not drugs are bad. That's for the reader to determine on their own, not for me to point out by condoning or protesting. Just thought I'd mention that since that may be Scorcese's view on the matter too.

  19. Pk: If your talking about Gangs of New York, I saw it, but I don't really remember much about it. I think I liked it, though.

    And, yeah, I get that Scorsese may have just been presenting this guy's life, but the whole thing felt pointless.