I didn’t expect the citizenry of the United States to fully embrace Martin Scorsese’s new masterpiece of cinema, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. With 18 years of film coverage, if there’s one thing I absolutely know about this country – it is that Black Comedies do not play.
This isn’t something new. The very first day I launched AICN, I wrote a piece about my anticipation for INDEPENDENCE DAY and MARS ATTACKS! I had read both scripts, but ID4 was not only releasing first, but was releasing on the most perfect release date for a movie ever. The Olympics were getting ready to launch and the world was going to eat a lot of popcorn. But MARS ATTACKS!, which was dearer to my heart. Based on Gum Cards of long ago, gum cards that parents, teachers and religious deacons loathed. The wanton gleeful heinous acts of death, all of which were meant to cause giggles and laughs were lost on them. MARS ATTACKS! was seen as a disappointment. I can also remember the US choking on Terry Gilliam’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS and the Coen Brothers’ BIG LEBOWSKI. Hard to imagine when all 3 films are pretty much loved universally now… but upon release… that was not the case. In fact, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and the Coen Brothers all got slapped around by the larger audiences and the more reserved critics of the country.
The same thing is happening now with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and I have to wonder – where you are on the film.
When I programmed the film to kick off BUTT-NUMB-A –THON 15 this year, it wasn’t because I was dying to see it. I found the trailers to be flat. Why on Earth would anyone really want to see a film about a disgusting class of Wall Street crooks that stole untold millions of U.S. investors funds selling pure junk that would never show a return on the investment? It is exactly this kind of immoral activity that has Tonya Harding’d America. However, I have an unending passion for Martin Scorsese movies.
Scorsese is the great American Auteur filmmaker of our Age. He has been one of the most flexible and youthful filmmakers my entire life. The first Scorsese film was released when I was 6 months old, it was BOXCAR BERTHA – and I saw it at an Austin, Tx Drive In movie theater with my parents. I have no memory of that showing, but I know I was there. From the beginning, Scorsese has been fascinated with crime. A look over his career shows a filmmaker that has repeatedly pulled back the curtain, not for moralistic judgment, but to simple allow us humble theater goers to gaze upon that which we all hope to never actually witness in person.
With THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Scorsese is telling a true story about essentially morally corrupt con men working the telephone lines of Wall Street – which reach every sucker in the country. The film shows us that not only did these cocksuckers rape the nation, but they had the moral indecency to thoroughly enjoy and debase themselves beyond any and all level of reason.
I can remember one review of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Marjorie Baumgarten that gave the film two and a half stars and said that Gilliam, Depp & Del Toro, “have executed the book’s transition to the screen almost flawlessly.” So much so that she loathed the experience. That such wanton disregard essentially became repugnant to her when placed upon the screen. As a result, she absolutely did not enjoy the experience.
This is currently happening with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – however, when this film played at BUTT-NUMB-A-THON – it played to an audience that had traveled from all over this country to party in a movie theater – and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a party film of such cinematic furor that it will punish you if you don’t come to enjoy it.
SO – if you’re thinking of seeing the film – go with the idea that you’re going to see a Martin Scorsese film that is built to entertain, you’re going to see the work environment that you can’t imagine… but it did. You’re going to see a thoroughly modern Great Gatsby – a self made American super-millionaire that did it any way possible. He was taught by sharks to drag the bodies off the beach and into the water to feast upon. This man is EVIL, but to him… he’s simply making a living taking suckers’ money. He’s a scam artist that never sees the victims homes foreclosed, families split up… Scorsese doesn’t show the trickle down trauma of Jordan Belfort and Donnie Azoff’s actions.
Scorsese isn’t here to judge. He’s here to reveal. To show you what this looks like. To show you HOW & WHY people do the things they do. Whenever great evil takes place we ask ourselves how could someone do this kind of thing to other people. Well, it’s incredibly simple really. Excess breeds excess. What is brilliant about Scorsese’s movie is the casting.
You have Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, the real Belfort wrote the novel, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, which this film is based upon. With Leo, you have a face that exudes charisma at will. Watching him on the phone, you can see – here’s a man that knows how to use his voice, his ability to pitch and finally how to sell the person on the other end of the phone. Selling is an art and when you listen to the hypnotic pitch that Leo gives when he first discovers the “pink sheet” world of investment hustling… you realize that it isn’t just the man on the other end of the phone listening… it isn’t just everyone in that work pool who have dropped their phones, ceased their conversations… but you realize everyone in the theater is listening – and when the sale is made… Applause. The scene is shot in a way that makes you realize that Belfort has discovered fire. Like Prometheus he has brought that fire and delivered it to his co-workers and something tremendous begins.
As the success piles on, as the years pour by without being punished an air of permissiveness and entitlement comes into play. We’re watching Leo train an army of ditto-heads. Very FIGHT CLUB, and we all remember how that film underplayed in the U.S.A. But for those of us that thirst for a cinema that doesn’t shy from the first syllable of the word, Scorsese has been our taxi driver delivering us to the very bowels of those that prey upon the prayers of others.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is meant to laugh at. It is the funniest comedy of 2013. The Quaalude scene may be the funniest and most amazingly hilarious scene in film history. It has made me cry laughing for a very long and sustained time both times I’ve seen THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.
I doubt we’ll get to see this film earn the rewards it so richly deserves this year… but like so many black comedies before and after it… this film will become worshipped. It will be discovered and appreciated by those that love daring & outrageous cinema. If HUGO was Scorsese’s love letter to film history, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is the party he throws for those of us that love going to the movies to experience what we could really never hope to experience.
I never thought I would think of DiCaprio as Scorsese’s muse over DeNiro and I still don’t, but if this cinematic partnership continues. If Marty ends up casting DiCaprio as Sinatra and fucking nails it… We might start feeling that way.
This film isn’t really a Christmas film, but it is one helluva NEW YEAR movie! Watch this film as the warm up to set the town ablaze with a party that rages out of control. Toss a dwarf or two. Slide a candle up your ass. Some times it is time for an indecent good time it seems Scorsese felt the same. Let’s go crazy with him, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Jon Bernthal and your audience! Jonah Hill and Leo should get nominated for this sucker along with Marty, Thelma Schonnmaker, Terence Winter and Rodrigo Prieto. If you watch AMERICAN HUSTLE, watch this after. Seeing AMERICAN HUSTLE after THE WOLF OF WALL STREET makes that film feel restrained and less energetic. Nobody can con an audience like Marty!