De Caprio is the heart of the film, a daredevil whose motivation seems
to be a misguided desire to acquire as much money as possible. He lives
his life as a constant dare, using and abusing the investments of
others, gambling with his personal relationships and his own health. He
constantly endangers his life and those who are closest to him. It
seems like he is capable of stopping this fall, but he keeps sinking
and sinking. We could say he has a survivor's nature, but he carries
with a very intense death wish, too.
Usually, it's easy to understand how people like him become so
successful. There's gotta be a bit of charisma to their natures, so
that we can see how they seduce the rest of the world into following
them. Unfortunately, the main lead here lacks that quality, and in one
of the worst casting choices in recent history, what we get is a man
who is not full of life and youth. He himself become his own iceberg as
he reveals his "age" early in the film, and De Caprio hasn't looked
that youthful in decades. This is not to say that De Caprio doesn't
try, but he's not a good fit for this role. About three years ago, in
"The Social Network" we could see the recklessness and drive of man who
could lure you into a trap. There's no way that seems believable here,
especially when you see the people he surrounds himself with. His wolf
can't cast a spell, and he can hardly bite.
Mercifully, we are not treated to the hyper kinetic editing and camera
work we usually encounter in Scorcese's films, but he's found other
ways to annoy us. He intermingles "Infomercials" throughout the movie,
as if we need reinforcement about the seductive power of his character.
They are sometimes ridiculous, and I doubt that is the intent. There
are also liberties with the source, and it's a pity because the text is
a delight to read, giving us the opportunity to wonder how something
that is definitely based on reality can appear so unbelievable. The
movie tries desperately to portray the excess and trappings of wealth,
but there is nothing sexy about the constant parade of prostitutes and
the overuse of obscenities, which occur at least every other minute.
The books gives us time to breathe. Nothing like that is ever possible
here, and that's why the film feels flat, not necessarily boring, but
it fails to crackle because it's just too much of the same, never
showing us where all the madness originates. There's little fire, just
an endless portrayal of stupidity.
Not all is lost (like in that other film) because we have a rising star
here. Margot Robbie makes quite an entrance and gives the best and most
solid performance here, enhanced by the mess the rest of the cast comes
up with. She's a formidable beauty, with lots of ambition, an
overpowering stare that will let you see that she is not afraid to seek
ambition, but she is still a full human being, capable of
distinguishing between right and wrong. She reminds you of a more
powerful Sharon Stone in her earlier films, and she is as talented as
she is gorgeous. Here we see how one person can become obsessed with
another, but it also makes you wonder why anyone would even stray from
such a beauty. Oh, yes, I forgot it's perfectly obvious drugs can
totally ruin your life and turn you into a monster.
The film is way too long, with more than a dozen scenes that could have
been eliminated because they don't add anything to the story flow. We
wish we could see more of the FBI agents, and it would be helpful to
see why Wolf doesn't seem to find any way to listen to his father, a
wonderful and underused Reiner.
We can guess the film's ending from its early frames. It seems as if
all the energy goes into the presentation of the material, and little
consideration is giving to the dialogue, other than peppering the
conversations with redundant expletives. Parading naked people around,
having snorting line after line of that white powder, or coming up with
sound blasting songs to underscore a point is a brutal point to deliver
a message. Just recently the Coens gives us a more dimensional creation
with no more than a few ungrateful remarks here and there. All the time
I could only wonder how it was that this film escaped the stamping of
that NC 17 rating because its only success was the abuse of visual
imagery and irritating language that loses its impact as it appears in
an endless barrage of mind numbing utterances.