Wolf of Wall Street: The most "Scorseseist" film ever?
Before we begin to take a look at the Scorsese elements in the movie, I will shortly talk and review the movie. So, there are some SPOILERS ahead, if you haven't seen the movie and plan to, well, don't read ahead.
Anyway, "Wolf of Wall Street", which is based on a true story, is about the rise and fall of a rich stockbroker called Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) that founds the brokerage firm "Stratton Oakmont" during the late 1980s in New York City. Its portrayal of the lives of Jordan and his friends and employees at his company is insane. It is incredibly excessive, with its 3-hour runtime, insane amounts of profanity, sexuality/nudity and drug consuming.
Is it good? Yes it is. This film pretty much proves that Martin Scorsese can make a pretty funny movie. Some critics didn't like the movie because it supposedly glorified the rich yet illegal and corrupt life style of Jordan Belfort and for its excessivenes, even though Jordan loses everything at the end of the movie. It's pretty much the ultimate story of greed and excess, but the characters definitely pay for it dearly after all is done.
Even though I liked it, it's not for everyone and I think at this point it's quite obvious why.
Every film maker's movies contain certain characteristics and story elements that make them stand out from the rest of them. These "director trademarks" are what makes their movies unique.
For example, David Fincher's movies are dark, normally have downbeat endings, have some backstories filled with flashbacks, can be about finding serial killers and some of them share a common theme, obsession. His movies that portray these things are Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Benjamin Button and Social Network.
Steven Spielberg's movies, lots of them, are heartwarming and are about normal people embarking on an epic or dangerous adventure, like Indiana Jones, Jaws, Jurassic Park, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind to name a few.
James Cameron's movies contain a lot of science fiction elements, no doubt the film genre that he's the best at, such as facing against aliens, cyborgs, some space travel, but also have a message of "never forget your humanity" and helping others (although his recent movie "Avatar" definitely doesn't speak nice about humans. Barely).
Now with Martin Scorsese, these are his trademarks:
- Frequently sets his films in New York City.
- Freeze frames.
- Voice overs from the main characters.
- Long tracking shots, his most famous one being in Goodfellas in the Copacabana scene.
- Graphic and realistic violence.
- Uses many times Rolling Stones music, especially "Gimme Shelter".
- His movies contain high levels of vulgar language, especially the F-word.
- Some of his main characters are ambitious criminals or the like that are short tempered that made it big, but then ultimately had their downfall.
- Some of his main characters are already in a relationship with a woman, but then meet a blonde and attractive woman and end up marrying the latter. However, after a while, a lot of conflict ensues between them and their marriage in the end gets destroyed and both get divorced.
Wolf of Wall Street takes place in New York City
Just like in Taxi Driver (1976)
And in Goodfellas (1990)
And in Mean Streets (1973)
And in King of Comedy (1982) just to name a few...
In Wolf, the main character cheats on his previous wife or girlfriend and ends up marrying an attractive blonde
Just like in Raging Bull (1980)
And in Casino (1995)
Only for their marriage to end in conflict...
To further illustrate Scorsese's trademarks, here's a video showing his editing techniques used in many of his movies, some which are found in ''Wolf", such as freeze frames and voice overs from the main character, normally I would show that, but I didn't find those specific scenes in "Wolf" (video contains some violent scenes):
Yeah, probably the 3rd time I say it, but another common thing found in Scorsese's movies is constant swearing. Just ask Joe Pesci.
Joe: What the f*#k do you mean by that?
Last, but certainly not least, the main character in "Wolf of Wall Street", though based on a real person, is an ambitious, short-tempered criminal whose pride and reason for reaching the top, is what also became his downfall.
Like Henry Hill and Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas
And like Frank Costello in The Departed (2006)
And like Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in Gangs of New York (2002)
Did you like "Wolf of Wall Street"?
So, in conclusion, does "Wolf of Wall Street" really contain every Scorsese trademark ever?
Answer: Yes, it does. But, what does that make of the film, does this mean that it's a good thing or a bad thing? Well, neither of them actually, a film's quality is defined by the writing, directing, acting, story, characters and the way all the previously mentioned elements are told.
I don't know about you, but I liked "Wolf" and, to many people including myself, it's always interesting analyzing and recognizing a film director's style and trademarks found in his or her movies, especially when he whips out a recent film. That way, one gets to know more about the director's movies, what common traits they share, what type of characters they create, the patterns of storytelling that they contain and how frequently they use them. Sometimes, said style and trademarks are used almost all the time by a filmmaker, establishing them as a "comfort zone" and rarely getting out of it, which is pretty understandable. After all, said style is what makes a filmmaker stand out and, logically, they will continue to make other movies like that. This brings to mind Tim Burton, who, with the exception of "Ed Wood", "Mars Attacks!" and "Planet of the Apes", for the most part always makes movies with surreal, dark and gothic themes. Though that's not really a bad thing, it is fun to sometimes see a film director do something that's quite different than what he or she normally makes. Even Scorsese has done movies that prove that he can be a pretty versatile director, just watch the films "Kundun", "Alice doesn't live here anymore" and "Hugo" and you'll see what I mean.