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Update January 8, 2014- CBS produced a segment today that echoes my review, below. Notably, CBS reasserts my notion that Hollywood was conned by Mr. Belfort. You can view the CBS story here.
January 5, 2014- By Steven E. Greer (a Series 7 certified movie critic) I eagerly watched The Wolf of Wall Street, despite the bad word of mouth and bad movie reviews in most newspapers. The Charlie Rose interview of Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese convinced me that both artists had put their best efforts into the film, and had made a serious epic worthy of a rare Steve Greer theater sitting.
I was willing to endure the three hours that most had said was excessive. However, I walked out regretting having lost three hours of my life that I will never get back.
I am somewhat of an expert on the industry and lifestyle depicted in Wolf of Wall Street, being a “Wall Street” person myself (and having watched it filmed in my neighborhood, and an old girlfriend was an extra in the movie). While some of the gratuitous sex and drug scenes were funny, overall, they were highly unrealistic. They got it all wrong.
For example, Scorsese decided to repeatedly portray blatant use of cocaine by the characters in public; in front of waiters, in the workplace, in front of employees, etc. In my experience, those are highly unrealistic depictions of true Wall Street. It might have been true for some cheesy Long Island penny-stock brokerage firm, but no real broker dealer based in Manhattan would ever allow such behavior, at any point in history.
If it is possible to give Wall Street a bad name, then this film achieves that. While it is true that Wall Street has repeatedly destroyed the global economy, leading to hardship amongst billions, the employees in the broker dealer banks are not derelict drug addicts. Any bank employee in real life who would even be suspected of cocaine abuse, much less the behavior depicted in the film, would be investigated and fired. I have seen it happen multiple times.
Even the orgy and strip club scenes were wildly inauthentic. Despite DiCaprio’s reputation with the ladies in real life, his willingness to act out these scenes makes me wonder whether DiCaprio has ever been around real strippers or orgies. I seriously doubt that Mr. Scorsese and the screenwriters ever have.
Wait. Inexperience certainly cannot explain the unrealistic depictions of debauchery. Scorsese and DiCaprio have indeed seen it all. Therefore, I wonder whether Hollywood was conned once again by Jordan Belfort.
After his arrest, Mr. Belfort wrote a book about his experiences of starting a Long Island penny-stock trading firm. In the late 90’s, Mr. Belfort conned one group in Hollywood to make the movie called Boiler Room, which was released in 2000 (The Hollywood PR army promoting Wolf of Wall Street has been very effective at preventing the two movies from being associated with the same biography). Wolf of Wall Street seems to be just a remake of Boiler Room, except this time, Mr. Belfort is portrayed as a much sexier and smarter character.
Did Mr. Belfort simply con DiCaprio and Scorsese into making this better version of his life, knowing that neither of them had any experience with real Wall Street and were gullible? They really should have consulted with me.
Despite the bad screenplay, the movie still could have been entertaining. There was at least 90-minutes of funny stuff in this three-hour slog. Leo’s acting was good and fun to watch.
But Scorsese ruined it, by personally editing the movie, and letting his OCD prevent boring silly segments from being chopped out (e.g. all of Jonah Hill’s lengthy scenes). These editing mistakes in Wolf of Wall Street are eerily similar to those of The Gangs of New York.
Now, I appreciate with more insight the comments made by Mr. DiCaprio during the Charlie Rose interview. Leo knew the movie was too long. He knows that Scorsese loses all perspective and has bad taste, and that they had produced a lemon.
Charlie Rose said it best when he asked Leonardo DiCaprio, “Why do you keep working with (Scorsese)?”.