I should have just seen Catching Fire for a second time.
Instead, I decided that, in spite of my misgivings, I should give The Wolf of Wall Street a try. Because Scorsese. I mean, it couldn't be as dreadful as it looked, could it?
But it was. Three hours of sociopaths, making money by pushing junk stocks on suckers, doing tons of drugs, having orgies, having affairs, driving while on drugs, flying a helicopter while (chemically) high, etc.
I don't know what the point is supposed to be.
OK, here's the obvious criticism: Martin Scorsese is (again) glorifying morally bankrupt people of wealth and power. That's basically what he's been doing since Goodfellas - including more recent films such as Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator. Even The Departed had a bit of that.
But all of the previous films had redeeming elements to them. Goodfellas is a masterpiece. Gangs of New York had a brilliant performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. The Departed, though erratic, had its moments.
The Wolf of Wall Street is just unabated atavism. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a masterful high-pressure salesman who is, to be blunt, an unadulterated asshole. Jonah Hill plays his sidekick. And there's a bunch of guys in the "boiler room" who adore Belfort and buy completely into his philosophy: sell people crap, pocket the money, and don't look back.
So they make a lot of money, spend lots of money on drugs and prostitutes, and...well, not much else happens. Except - it's really ostentatious? What's the point here? There is an FBI agent on his tail, but Belfort and his crew are such idiots that there's very little drama to the pursuit.
There are some funny parts, well, to the extent that stoned people hurting themselves and others is funny. Somehow there were enough of them that the Golden Globes decided to classify it as a "Comedy or Musical" for the awards ceremony. (DiCaprio won the award for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, and he was a bit non-plussed at the categorization.)
But, like I said, so what?
I feel like the argument in favor of the film is that, by displaying naked greed so openly, Scorsese is condemning it. But I really don't feel like that's the end effect of the film. It feels more like the film is extolling the virtues of its main characters, and that there is at best a nodding awareness that this is anti-social behavior. The basic problem is that none of the characters have any real emotions that the viewer can care about. It's just greed, greed, greed, and self-indulgence. There's no deeper examination of the characters or the issues.