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
Top 5 Scorsese Film Imo along with DiCaprio’s best performance so far.
@Randy. Many will agree with you on DiCaprio here. I’m not one of them. But my biggest problem is with your ranking of the film. I don’t think it sniffs the top 5 for Scorsese. It is very unremarkable visually for a Scorsese film.
I don’t think any director has a deeper filmography than Scorsese, particularly in the + 10 range meaning that I would probably take Scorsese’s 12th best film over any other directors 12th best, and his 13th best over any other director’s 13th best, and so on…
I don’t think this is a top 10 Scorsese film and I absolutely love watching it which is largely what led to my comment in the above paragraph, it has an energy to it that clearly mirrors Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed. There are rarely any slow stretches in these films and despite the length they are quite lean.
I think I agree with you on Jonah Hill’s character, I just don’t really get what he’s going for. He’s a very bizarre character but admittingly very funny at times.
Love the Lemonheads cover for Mrs. Robinson at the end, no one and I mean no one uses pop music better than Scorsese. Tarantino and PT Anderson are up there as well but Scorsese is the king as far as that goes.
I love the use of the real Jordan Belfort in the final scene (he’s the guy introducing DiCaprio’s character to the audience in New Zealand)
I don’t think that first bit is completely solid, though. Bergman, Bunuel and Kurosawa, among others (probably Ozu who I have not examined) have incredibly deep filmographies beyond even the Top 10 as well and so does Fassbinder, though Fassbinder at his best cannot match any of these others at his best.
i totally agree with zane @James Trapp i think you’re seriously underestimates many directors bergman,bunuel,kurosawa,ozu(@zane very good choice for these four there ) as well john ford and hitchcock(even though i am not a huge fan of him) have all incredibly deep filmographies
@Beaucamp – Yes, you are totally right as well, can’t imagine the palm straight through the face I had seeing you mention Hitch and JF who I COMPLETELY forgot about. Howard Hawks probably deserves a mention as well, man just made MP after MP from 1938-1940 ending it with His Girl Friday as his best film to date and Rio Bravo and The Big Sleep as his two best overall? Sign me up to watch those any day. Woody Allen is another who is hard to beat though I won’t exposit too much on him until I watch anything other than Crimes and Misdemeanors (which I really liked), I think the Coen Brothers too.
@zane yes hawks also has a deep filmographies but but i didn’t mention him because i think he’s not on the same level as bergman,ozu,kurosawa,ford,hitchcock or scorsese(his best movies like the big sleep,his girl friday or rio bravo are all masterpiece but are far from competing with movies like tokyo story,seven samurai,rashomon,persona,the searchers,vertigo,taxi driver or raging bull) i think @drake is right “his visual style is nowhere near as ostensible or exceptional” but of course he is an immense directors and that’s true woody allen and the coen brothers also have a deep filmographies.
I thought the same about Hawks, I do think he should get a leg in the conversation at least for what he’s able to do with narrative and dialogue but like you I don’t think he’s in the level of Bergman, Bunuel, Kurosawa, Ozu, Ford or Hitchcock indeed, or Woody and the Coens.
Okay, I misspoke, Scorsese has near 30 full length films (not counting documentaries, shorts, etc.) and there are directors like Bergman and Hitchcock who have approximately 40 + films so I there are directors with deeper filmographies. I just meant that I prefer his 15th best movie to any other directors 15th best movie…that is just my opinion based on directors who I have seen all their work although I admit its close for me between Kurosawa, Scorsese, and Hitchcock. I have not seen enough of Bergman or Bunuel’s work yet, maybe I will change my opinion.
@James – Yeah I mean I didn’t mean to criticize your opinion that Scorsese has such an incredibly strong filmography as he so clearly does, the fact that he’s been able to keep up such a strong body of work for 50 years now is insane, but at times it did sound like you were saying you thought Scorsese’s filmography was comfortably superior to any other director’s, probably that’s just what I read of it and not what you meant but I digress. And as strong as Scorsese’s Tiers all around I don’t think, say, Scorsese’s Tier 3 (and Tiers 1 and 2 are honestly too close to call) is superior to Bergman’s, I mean his Tier 3 is like Sawdust and Tinsel, Scenes from a Marriage, Smiles of a Summer Night, Shame and maybe like Summer With Monika or Saraband as the fifth film, and those first two especially are extremely good films and I think better than anything in your corresponding tier for Scorsese and Sawdust is debatably a better film than The King of Comedy and The Aviator even as well (and I say that as this world’s foremost fan of The Aviator).
@Zane – yeah, no worries, like I said I still need to do a deep dive into Bergman (admittingly a daunting task!). After watching the Wolf of Wall Street again which I enjoy tremendously I started thinking of where it ranks on my list for Scorsese and then I realized it’s only like 13th or 14th which just blows my mind.
As I said before my 3 favorite directors are:
# 1 – Scorsese, 25 films
# 2 – Hitchcock, 53 films
# 3 – Kurosawa, 30 films
So they are all quite prolific, Hitchcock especially. So of the directors who I’ve seen all or the majority of their work I prefer Scorsese’s Tier 3 films the most. This could change of course after some future director studies.
@Zane@beaucamp – or here is another way of looking at it, if you ranked director’s best films in Tiers of 5 these would be my ranking of Scorsese’s 4 Tiers
Scorsese’s Tier 1 Films (not necessarily or order):
Scorsese’s Tier 2 Films:
Age of Innocence
King of Comedy
Wolf of Wall Street
Gangs of New York
Scorsese’s Tier 4 Films:
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Color of Money
@James Trapp-So do you have the same Scorsese top 10 of Drake? All of your tier 1 and tier 2 Scorsese films are rated MS or higher.
@Malith – Interesting, Drake has Casino as MP/MS and Age of Innocence as MP
I think I might be ready to put The Irishman in Tier 1 over Mean Streets but it’s really close. I think Wolf of Wall Street and Cape Fear are MS so I think Scorsese has 12 films that are MP or MS so it’s probably not a surprise to reveal that he’s my favorite ha. With Hitchcock and Kurosawa not far behind.
And to be clear I’m going by Tiers as strictly 5 films so someone may think that Scorsese has 7 MPs but only 5 can go in Tier 1 and thus 2 would be included in Tier 2