In my continuing effort to try and catch up on some important films of 2013, mostly so that the Oscars aren't a complete waste of time, I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street the other day. A lot of the films up for Best Picture don't appeal to me for various reasons, but a Scorsese film is not one I'm about to miss.
The first thing I noticed about this movie was that it felt very much like previous Scorsese films, especially Goodfellas. The narrative structure was nearly identical, including a similar voice over that could have been spoken by the same character. I imagine this was intentional. By alluding to that movie, I think it attempted to make the analogy that Wall Street is no different than the mafia. It's an effective analogy, though it did leave me with the impression that I had sort of seen this movie before. That didn't really bother me however, because it felt like I movie I'd seen and loved.
Like other classic Scorsese movies, this one had that magic recipe of humor, tension, and debauchery. It also brought out some of the best performances in a wonderful cast. I particularly thought that Jonah Hill was brilliant. There were many laugh out loud funny lines in the film, and he delivered the lion's share of them. Leo was also fantastic, which I've come to expect from him, being one of the greatest actors of our generation.
I know a lot of critics and viewers have been upset by the way the movie tends to glorify greed. And though it does in a way, it's also necessary in order to capture the world in which these characters inhabit. What I really think people object to is that while watching the movie, you really want the character to get away with it. This is something that has plagued many of Scorsese's films. I felt the same way during Goodfellas. That's because the main characters are incredibly likable, and you end up rooting for them, despite their crimes. But that's another tricky aspect of moviemaking. You need to have a likable main character to pull the audience in. That doesn't bother me either, because the ultimate responsibility of the viewer is to reflect afterwards on the rights and wrongs, and even to question why you would allowed yourself to root for someone whose actions you normally despise. That's the point of a thought-provoking piece of art. I shudder to think of a day when we return all art to being morally didactic.