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Joe Morgenstern’s “Surface of Sin” Gets Stuck on One Note

In response to Joe Morgenstern’s 417‑word review of The Wolf of Wall Street on Wall Street Journal

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If ever there were a movie to come down the pike that was squarely in the Wall Street Journal‘s wheelhouse, it’s Martin Scorsese’s big budget sleaze ball biopic of Wall Street conman Jordan Belfast. The folks at that honorable publication probably haven’t been this giddy since Gordon Gekko’s face was everywhere in the 80s.  

Joe Morgenstern, the paper’s resident critic, takes his enthusiasm and puts it to good use, sinking his teeth in deep and coming out with a (mostly) satisfying piece of film criticism in “‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Skims the Surface of Sin.”

Morgenstern’s prose is absolutely sumptuous. He turns phrases that will make your head spin and his word choice will delight readers in its specificity.  

It’s so good, in fact, that it provides a perfect cover for a review that doesn’t really say much of consequence. Like most critics who didn’t enjoy the film, Morgenstern argues that the debauchery was too over the top and too drawn out to have much effect. This is perfectly valid, but, also like other critics, he decides that making this point once, twice, or thrice isn’t enough and it begins to wear you down.

To his credit, he does stray briefly from this dull story arc to critique the acting, but it’s too little, too late.     

Quality of Writing Quality of Argument Spoiler Avoidance Presentation