Matt Powers is a contributor to The Onion, Onion Sports, and Onion News Network. He is the editorial/writers assistant at Adult Swim dot com. He used to work as writers assistant and contributing writer to Onion Digital which brought to the world delights like "Sex House" and "Lake Dredge Appraisal". He has been asked several times but refuses to leave your driveway.
The Wolf Of Wall Street is a 3 hour film and like any film of that length it inherently must explain why it deserves so much of our time. I think most viewers would agree the most fun part of TWOWS is watching people act badly. And not just any people: rich people—rich people who have staggering means to act badly in staggering ways. I did find this very large chunk of the film interesting, at first. I, like most people, don’t (and can’t) act that way so watching is an amusing voyeuristic experience that at the end I can walk away without needing a considerable stint in rehab or a new set of friends. The problem is, I think Martin Scorsese liked these scenes a lot too. In fact I know he did, because he put a lot of them in his movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great performance as a noveau riche upstart gone mad with excess, and I think that is an double-edged gift for the man in charge with putting the movie together. Scorcese is obviously a very talented and capable director, and because of that he knows when actors are giving him great stuff (as DiCaprio does in this film) and I think he had a very hard time parting with it. It was midway through the third or fourth repetitive rah-rah “us vs them” Jordan Belfort companywide speech that even a fraternity brother might shy away from that I started to wonder why such a huge section of the film depicted a rather static section of Belfort’s life. Indeed, it was pretty fun, but it wasn’t effective storytelling. If I’m going to see a three hour movie, I want more than just gratuitous fun. For example:
-I couldn’t tell you anything substantial about any female character other than they very rarely do drugs or get off a sales call and yell primally.
-One woman was referenced as a very talented salesperson, but then she cried and later harangued an FBI agent who was grabbing her: “this is Versace!”
-The other top dogs at Stratton Oakmont all more or less ran together for me. One of them had funny teeth, another had a funny toupee—all liked money and partying. I think the actors did a good job at those parts, I was just not particularly made to care about any of them.
-Watching people in movies be high for long periods of time is tiring. I already have to do that too much in real life.
-There were occasions where DiCaprio’s voiceover would literally say “you don’t care about this explanation, we were getting rich and doing drugs” (cue party sequence). Overall, the VO seemed to be used as a shortcut to get to more parties or displays of wealth more quickly.
-There is a split-second plane crash scene (concurrent with a boat crash scene) and I could not explain to you why or how that happened.
I’m not trying to take down this film—I did largely enjoy it. It just could have been so much better if Scorsese could have chopped down the thing he so obviously loves (and he loves rightfully so). My favorite scenes were not the dark laugh-lines (e.g. calling a small person “it” repeatedly) nor the shocking partying. What stood out to me was the horrifying scene where a very high Jordan grabs his daughter and puts her in his car, the short scene of the FBI agent riding the subway, anything involving the Swiss banker, Belfort talking to the FBI agents on his boat—none of these involve partying or screaming business advice. The scenes that really popped were excellent, and were far too often buttressed by endless scenes of people screaming into phones or ingesting drugs as fast as humanly possible while a harem of beautiful naked women traipse around. Scorsese knew what the most sinfully fun part of his film would be, and when he got the footage back he realized it was more fun than even he imagined. I think he got caught up in his own creation and put out a product that doesn’t try to earn the audience’s three hours but it comes across as expecting the audience to be grateful to experience such fantastic revelry (see: “Project X”). I get that this easy money and even easier greed made these previously nobodies into tribal, chest-pounding neanderthal junkies and I think that is interesting. Now let’s move on to a new scene.
I may not have any kids, but I thought of a great parenting tip I’m going to share with you:
If I’m ever shopping for clothing with my toddler, the first thing I’m gonna do is put one of the store’s shirts or coats (or anything with a security tag) on my kid so that if s/he wanders away or gets kidnapped the door security alarm will be set off. This way I can be negligent without worrying about losing my kid. Imagine how stupid that kidnapper is going feel when he thinks he’s home free with a neglected kid and that alarm goes off.
Two days ago, I put all my almonds in a big glass jar so that I can always keep an eye on them. They used to be in an opaque burlap sack but I’ve found that storage method too exploitable by my enemies. With this new system, if I ever think there’s something fishy going on concerning my almonds, I just look at the jar. If it is full with the exact amount of almonds I had the evening before (I mark the jar every night at 8:45 PM with a little dry erase marker), I can go on my day with peace of mind, re: almonds.
Yesterday, I found that a brilliant thief had put a tiny, 360° projector in my jar and programmed it to project a life-life image of almonds onto the sides of the jar, allowing for seamless capture of my quite real jar almonds. This was the one oversight of my almond/jar plan and this burglar mercilessly exploited it. In order to shore up my defenses and prevent similar calamities from occurring in the future, I have decided to switch the jar’s contents to cashews. I know this likely won’t do much, if anything, to increase jar security but I just lost a bunch of almonds and I’m kind of frazzled.
More plans to come.