Director: Martin Scorsese
Red Granite Pictures
Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Wolf of Wall Street, much hyped, reduced down to 180 minutes of screen time after the first cut that was handed in ran towards five hours, arrives at just the right time to call it the last great film of 2013. It’s nice to have Leonardo DiCaprio doing this much work – here he’s very physical, as a comedian, in sex scenes (sometimes even in comedy-sex scenes) and he’s scenery-chewing as he delivers masterful monologues to fever-pitch crowd scenes – and for all that work to go in the right direction, to support a great film. Previously he tried as part of the ludicrous reimaging of The Great Gatsby – the films share some themes/ideas, the basic idea/s around exploring wealth/greed – but where DiCaprio was merely the best thing about a crap film with Gatsby here, as the Wolf, he’s the best thing about a great film. That must be really satisfying. It’s certainly really satisfying to watch.
Drug benders play out for laughs and floppy arms beat Jim Carey even (circa Me Myself And Irene) and then there’s the way that DiCaprio, simply by lasting in his various Scorsese roles, is the new DeNiro, but also the new Andy Garcia and – particularly – the new Ray Liotta. If he’s ever a bit of a ham – and this role sorta requires that, expects that – then he’s the very best ham there ever was/or will be.
This Wall Street Wolf owns the screen for every second he’s there – almost the entire film, almost every scene, every main scene and he shares memorable, already quotable, instant classic scenes with wonderful co-stars Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler and – in a cameo worth of Alec Baldwin’s great movie-stealer in Glengarry Glen Ross (another kinda-related/relatable film) a tanorexic, alluringly chest-beating Matthew McConaughey (who seems to have finally pulled finger and pressed it firmly on the quality-control booster with regard to his film choices).
Jonah Hill might then go on to be Scorsese’s new Joe Pesci – but whatever he does after this, gain (more) weight, lose it all (again), piss his career back up a wall by falling (back) into stoopid-doofus comedies – this is the film of his career. His performance here is creepy-good; you’re drawn to the carefully managed insanity.
So there are these great performances – and Margot Robbie, a bit like Sharon Stone in Casino (the film of Scorsese’s I think this most closely resembles) is also wonderful. She has to be eye-candy, she has to strip, but you have to believe her as a bit of a tough broad, a bit of a gold-digger, and about as strong as a woman in this film could be.
I can only imagine the feminist critiques of this film – and by that I mean I could not (obviously) ever write one. But I should think the big issue a lot of people will have about this film is exactly what I love about it – there is no morality, no guiding you towards a judgment, you make it yourself; you watch the debauchery, if you’re a Wall Street trader-type, you might, as some did apparently, high-five in self-congratulation and er wolf whistle to the bacchanalian stripper-leading office-desk fuck-fests; to the drug-fuelled lack of accountability, the complete empowerment that has come from absolute greed corrupting absolutely.
Or you could be horrified. Could be a little of both, right?
I’m sick of this downfall-justifies-the-end-that-justified-the-means/meaning – I want stories. And stories where I, as reader, viewer, listener, can make my own mind up. The Wolf of Wall Street, this version of it – taken from the book of the same title – allowed me that pleasure.
And so for the hurtling pace of three hours, a film that almost toppled right over a couple of times but never dragged, always correcting itself just in time, I was appalled – in absolutely the best possible way.
It was gratuitous and there were smug-nasty-cunts and there were the biggest shitheals ever and there was another blues-based soundtrack of song snippets and long pans to let you know that Scorsese signed this off.
But it was so beautifully visceral. The best movie acting I’ve seen in a long time – in terms of big-budget/mainstream/multiplex stuff. The best movie I’ve seen this year. Right in time to take out that prize, no less.
Go see it – be bored or appalled, be engrossed, or simply grossed right out – but you’ll remember this film. And we need experiences like that. And we need, also, to draw our own conclusions, not just to wait for the it-was-all-a-dream/they-really-did-hard-time-all-of-them on screen postscript. Fuck that noise. Get there for this noise. Awoo!