Thoroughly engaging, a damn funny film, and a meditation on greed, depravity, excess—and yes- this is Scorsese—sin.
It’s a marathon—3 hours flat—but my god Scorsese has both a knack for narrative (his films are almost all long, though in 2013 this is his longest) and keeping the momentum going through interesting subject matter and energetic direction and editing. Casino is long and absolutely flies by, ditto for Casino, The Aviator, The Departed– we’re talking about some of the fastest 2+ hours in cinema and that’s a testament Scorsese
I think there’s some clear rise and fall of the Roman empire here and I think the scalping scene (where DiCaprio pays a female employee $10,000 to shave her head) is a statement — Pasolini’s Salo also comes to mind and some of Sorrentino’s work (some before, at the same time as Wolf like The Great Beauty is in 2013 and after like Loro is in 2018)
Stylistically and narratively it’s a cousin of Goodfellas– clearly the same auteur and aesthetic voice. We have the 4th wall breaking speaking to the camera, the voice-over, the freeze frame (we start with one on the little person after the Stratton commercial that opens the film) and get a few others like this below and again the rise and fall narrative structure. We even have the idea of whether or not to “rat”
This is description – not evaluation- not subtle in the slightest- there’s “I love drugs” in the text. “Stratton is America” in the text
Scorsese’s nicely bounces around the floor at the Stratton office when they have the fake swing of the bat. There’s another nice one when some of the employees are arrested but overall the camera is very quick for a Scorsese film
Instead- much of the film is comprised of these visually flat individual vignettes that are filled with comedic improv performances. They’re hilarious. McConaughey’s “rookie numbers” “feed the geese” scene is unbelievable- what an achievement for him to come in and do that.
DiCaprio is a tour-de-force. He makes the character and film so much more complex because of his inarguable charm.
The slow motion shot of Jonah Hill’s Donnie at the party on the beach is a miss. I get that Scorsese is trying to shot the effects of the drugs but –yeah—it’s just a bad shot. It’s a good idea in practice- just poor execution which is so rare.
A great composition shot here below where Jordan’s DiCaprio is caught by his first wife
Another one here with the ceiling as background like Welles/Soderbergh using the ceiling as background because of the angles
Again Scorsese’s gift for narrative is really uncanny. It’s hard to explain because he doesn’t write the screenplay for much of his work (including this). There are just fascinating scene after fascinating scene here—the best one may be the lemon ludes vignette. You have Jordan using coke like popeye’s spinach and this is the downward spiral that hit us at the end of Goodfellas. The FBI comes in, his yacht sinks, the plane that was sent to get him explodes—“after all this, I got the message”—God and man’s sin from Scorsese
I do like the shot versus shot of DiCaprio and Jean Dujardin and the inner monologue of each going back and forth
I’m not sure what to think about Jonah Hill’s performance. I guess I’m not sold. I think there are a handful of scenes when the improv just goes on too long.
There are a few speeches as well DiCaprio carries them- the speech to the employees is touching one moment and then deplorable the next