Much like fellow Best Picture nominee American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street is a helluva fun ride that ultimately lacks the staying power that some of the other more serious Oscar contenders have. In other words, 12 Years a Slave The Wolf of Wall Street is not.
In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorcese lets the audience get taken in by Jordan Belfort only to crank up the excess leading to a repulsion to contrast more meaningfully against that urge to like the charismatic lead. In the role of rich asshole, Leonardo DiCaprio once again kills it for Scorcese. While one could certainly wonder if Leo is actually having to stretch much to play a role like Belfort, the fact remains that he excels in this immorality tale.
That isn't to say DiCaprio is alone in his greatness. Predictably, Scorsese gets great turns from the supporting cast. Kyle Chandler and Matthew McConaughey are both fantastic is smaller roles, as Jordan's foil and mentor, respectively. In addition to being stunning, Australian Pan-Am and Neighbours alum Margot Robbie is wonderful as the other half in a very mercurial relationship. Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Cristin Milioti, and Jean Dujardin round out the rest of the strong supporting cast; but it is Jonah Hill who gets the most screen time of the rest of the cast, and he absolutely earns his second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor with a blisteringly hilarious and debaucherous turn as Donnie Azoff, Jordan's right hand and enthusiastic co-conspirator.
Now one could levy claims that Scorcese and screenwriter Terence Winter--Boardwalk Empire in the house--don't punish Belfort enough, but do any of the Wall Street bilkers get any significant punishment? His life is in shambles after his self-destruction, but anyone hoping for Scorcese to do a morality tale is barking up the wrong tree.
The real issues with the film lie with the fact that despite its three-hour runtime--a runtime usually reserved for historical epics or dramas with grave import--The Wolf of Wall Street falls a bit on the forgettable side of things. It's a full-blown debaucherous ride, but somehow a three-hour Martin Scorcese film seems to lack the significance that the rest of his fare has in spades.