They may, however, bristle at The Wolf of Wall Street's many indulgences, a film that nearly drowns in its own chaos. The movie marks the fifth collaboration between DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese (director), whose projects have skittered from self-serious and pretentious (Gangs of New York, The Aviator) to precise and unforgiving (The Departed) to just plain bizarre (Shutter Island). As confident as ever, the two men have become like mad scientists, more gifted than their peers, but also less discerning. Even if Wall Street boils with brilliance, some of its experiments would have been better left in the lab.
Take nudity. Throughout Wall Street, we meet dozens upon dozens of women, from enterprising to boring, intelligent to brainless, scheming to harmless. Virtually all of them disrobe, mostly in service to our leading man, Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio). We do meet one exception, a lone female stock broker who actually gets to speak for three minutes without taking her top off. (It should be noted that she spends the entire three minutes showering compliments on Jordan.) Yes, this is a film about depravity, excess, and greed. Granted, the sex is so rampant that we, like Jordan, begin to feel its inherent emptiness by the film’s final act. And yet, there’s a certain satirical laziness at play here, a film that pretends to critique when quietly, even selfishly, it profits from the very thing it appears to condemn.
It's too bad, because Wall Street doesn't need all the distraction. The smartest, most arrogant man in every room, DiCaprio's Jordan sizzles with more guilty pleasure than his yacht full of Playboy bunnies. He swindles as easily as he smiles, then charms his friends as diabolically as he stalks his enemies. Narcissistic to the core, Jordan is dangerously unstable, constantly teetering on the brink of insanity, lurching around the office like a wild, blood-hungry wolf. A less capable actor might have let the performance stagger out of control, but DiCaprio nails it. He's always been an entertainer, but this may just be his masterpiece.
Not to be outdone, Scorsese duels his star actor to a draw, crafting house parties, boat galas, and office celebrations with a bold, almost offensive color scheme—as loud as Jordan's orgasmic outbursts. We see bright red marching bands, glitter-adorned prostitutes, gold confetti and glass upon glass of neon, drug-infused cocktails. After assaulting our eyeballs, Scorsese accosts our eardrums, blasting a mix of rap, pop, and classics ("Mrs. Robinson" features in a particularly memorable scene). It's the sort of filmmaking that brings you to the brink of exhaustion, but catches you just in time, holding you at the precipice of unconsciousness as you ride a hypnotic, cinematic high.
And then, like with any drug, comes the crash. Wall Street runs a full 2 hours and 59 minutes, long enough that you'll start feeling withdrawal symptoms well before Jordan's last sly wink and devilish smile. At times, the film may achieve a certain hazy nirvana, but so what? Once the bright lights and catchy tunes have run to their dreary end, you'll be left wondering what it was all for, and whether the film was worth your post-movie headache. With The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese and DiCaprio have produced a mind-altering experience, but nothing that will change your life. And let's face it: like any crazy night out, you won't remember much the next morning anyway.