The Wolf of Wall Street is a phenomenal movie. It’s a scathing satire that eviscerates the culture of greed surrounding Wall Street in the most incisive way possible – by telling the truth. (Or one man’s retelling of the truth, slightly tweaked.) It’s an excellent movie, but when you really think about it, it’s not terribly original.
Here’s the underlying theme: scrappy young guy fights his way to the top by doing all manner of unscrupulous things, indulges too much in the lifestyle, gets caught, and ends up losing it all. We’ve all heard that story before, right? But The Wolf of Wall Street is not a great movie because of its underlying theme. It’s great because of everything else. It’s great because of all the stuff that has little to no bearing on the plot, but is just really funny to watch.
The shining example of this was when main character Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is so totally obliterated by ultra-quaaludes that he has to crawl down the steps of his country club, climb into his car, and somehow drive home when he’s so messed up he can’t speak properly. The scene was absolutely hilarious, but when you think about it, was it really relevant to the plot? No, it was not. That entire scene could have been cut and the film would have said essentially the same thing.
But it wouldn’t have been the same. Minimalism is fine, and it’s generally a good idea to strip out unnecessary fluff, but sometimes you have to leave in the pointless scenes because they’re so damn good. The plot might not have demanded Mr. DiCaprio writhe on the ground for so long, but damn if it wasn’t one of the best parts of the movie! It would have been a shame to see that same movie without it.