Thursday, December 26, 2013

Film critic Glenn Kenny on THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Glenn Kenny, former film critic for PREMIERE and, offers a comprehensive analysis of the latest Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration in these two blog columns:

A couple of excerpts from the above links:
I suppose that in certain quarters, the only thing interesting about a movie, or the launching pad for anything interesting about a conversation or consideration about a  movie, is how the moviemakers feel about their characters. Golly, the Coen brothers sure hate their characters don't they? But that David O. Russell [director/co-writer of the current AMERICAN HUSTLE], he LOVES his characters —characters who, like those in Wolf of Wall Street, are criminals—but they're NICE criminals, they're passionate they're in love, they're cuddly, and Jennifer Lawrence is AWESOME. Gosh, when did the critical class become so a) filled with flowery feeling and b), for lack of a better world, thick? Buñuel wouldn't do well with this crowd at all. "Hey—he's...he's...he's making FUN of us!"

There is a structural similarity to Scorsese's 1990 Goodfellas, but there are crucial differences too. While Goodfellas maintained a nearly breakneck pace throughout, Wolf of Wall Street has a start-stop rhythm. There are breakneck fast-forward voice-over led sequences that give way to long scenes, scenes which a lot of critics have called pointless. For instance, once finance tyro Belfort is making ridiculous money heading up his fake-respectable firm of Stratton Oakmont, the viewer learns that Belfort's father (played brilliantly by Rob Reiner) has a prodigiously bad temper, and was hired to oversee Stratton Oakmont's books. What follows is a conference room scene in which Belfort and his senior staffers are sitting around very earnestly discussing the dwarves that they are looking to hire for some in-house revelry. Because they now inhabit a world in which everything is commodified, their talk is half earnest, half "can't believe we're getting away with this shit" shitty awe, trading observations about how you should never look a dwarf in the eye and how the wee folk gossip among themselves. It's only after several minutes of this that Reiner's character bursts in, fit to pop a blood vessel over a corporate American Express bill just shy of half a million dollars. Can one genuinely not see the point of this scene, or would one just rather not? In any event, from where I sat the banter among these young capitalists was Ionesco out of early Python—and by early Python I mean Swiftian Rage Python. It's important to remember that it's at the very beginning of the movie that a character played by Matthew McConaughey explains that the entire edifice of investment banking is built on a "fugazi," or "fairy dust." Think of all the people who got incredibly angry and genuinely outraged when the current head of the Catholic Church said "How can it not be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

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