Director Marty Scorsese is an encyclopedia of film history and a master director but in presenting Belfort's roller coaster existence, he surrenders to bombastic indulgence instead of controlled storytelling. I longed for the infrequent quiet moments. Even when Jordan directly addresses the camera to explain the trading business, the liberties he's taking and the corners he's cutting, he quickly interrupts himself with, "Oh, but you don't care about that," and we're off again into drugs, alcohol, and parties.
Marty, some viewers are eager to learn details instead of detouring repeatedly into hedonistic indulgence. That's established and simple; we got it. So round out the picture. Even a dark comedy benefits from some complexity, sorely lacking here especially given its three hours running time. And, as usual, the nudity is female, and was so excessive that shots had to be cut to avoid an NC-17 rating. Yes, this goes on, but started feeling exploitive. Furthermore, several events that strain credulity go beyond humor to crass tastelessness, also including the dwarf tossing. Only the scene when Jordan tears up his car gives true comic release.
Matthew McConaughey shines in a brief opening scene, but Jonah Hill, on hand throughout as the straight man, lacks range. Several come off as caricatures instead of characters.
Combining film and digital footage, director of photography Rodrigo Prieto describes in this month's "American Cinematographer" the color schemes, lighting styles and optics that differentiate Belfort's state of mind. Murky lighting, slight distortion, and shallow depth of field contrast with sharper focus and crisp definition. Still, over all, I came away feeling that it's not only Jordon Belfort given to off-putting excess. Marty's gone there too with sound and fury signifying much less than "the Wolf of Wall Street" needed to qualify as an insightful, notable film. At area theaters.