Caught the Scorcese/Winter pairing last night. Lemme tell you, not the greatest film in the universe to see with your parents. My brain comes to associate childish things like Thor and Pacific Rim as being inappropriate for viewing with parents and tends to run roughshod over things like "adult", "drug" and "sexual content." Yikes. Gotta keep a better leash on that in future.
That said, I really did enjoy the film. I think, for the most part, it's carried by its script. The direction is competent, masterful in a few places, but its the unflinching nature of the script, able to show imagery at once horrific and hilarious, that really makes this grade A satire. Once of my favorite pieces of writing in the whole script is the reoccurring (but frankly too infrequent) motif of Belfort's exposition assuming the audience is too stupid to comprehend the complex inner finances of his schemes. While both totally true of its audience and a cutting way to save screen time, it really expertly highlights the actual tactics employed by these white collar criminals to get away with their crimes. They rely on the general public being too moronic, too confused about how the stock market works to follow exactly how they're being cheated.
That said, I do think the film suffers from the "big name blockbuster" length issue. I understand the tactics involved there too; at this point, Scorcese and Leo feel no need to censor themselves, but at exactly three hours, it's no longer a matter of censorship and suddenly becomes a matter of structure. The movie feels ponderous, despite all its energy and momentum. There are several sections that, while humorous pay-off, feel out of place and unnecessary (ex. hitting on Aunt Emma, the yacht crash). There are ways to convey these ideas without spending precious minutes on them during the film. I don't understand what happened to concise filmmaking anymore; it doesn't seem to be a factor. Am I crazy here? Does no one else care about length?
Also also, I really can't understand people who criticize the script for allowing its protagonist to escape unscathed. That's the point – our society doesn't condemn white collar crime, it worships it. In a culture built upon the accumulation of obscene wealth for obscene reasons, why, on earth, would anyone view him as a hero? The fault doesn't lie with the film; the fault lies with the eye-goggled audience members on Belfort's lecture circuit, eager to learn precisely how they can become as depraved and amoral as he did.
Excellent script, excellent performances, excellent movie. 8/10.