In Scorsese's latest, DiCaprio is loud, arrogant, not very nice to people
Martin Scorsese's new film -- while quite enjoyable at times -- seems like a never-ending exercise in decadence and debauchery, says Aseem Chhabra, who preferred the powerful Philomena instead.
A new film by Martin Scorsese is an event, especially when there is such buzz around it.
The Wolf of Wall Street opens on Christmas Day, making it the last film to be considered for the awards season.
The early awards season has not been kind to Wolf. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, usually enamored by big stars and directors, only gave the film two nominations -- in the Best Picture and Actor in a Musical or Comedy category.
Last week, I saw an early screening of Wolf at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, shown as part of MoMA's ongoing The Contenders series. There was a big demand for tickets and I rushed to the theatre to grab good seats with friends.
So here is the verdict.
As with all Scorsese films, Wolf is exceptionally well made with terrific acting by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and the rest of the cast (including a brilliant long scene with Matthew McConaughey; he unfortunately disappears from the film after that).
At three hours, the film is packed with so much action and energy that many people will come out feeling totally entertained.
But the length and high energy can also be very exhausting.
The characters speak loudly, there is a lot of yelling, a lot of drug use (which is amusing up to a point) and way too much of sex and nudity (which can also be amusing up to a point).
The Wolf of Wall Street is based on a book of the same name by Jordan Belfort, the role DiCaprio plays. While Scorsese seems to love his protagonist, I didn't care for DiCaprio’s Belfort. He is loud, arrogant, and often not very nice to people.
I won't go into how he treats women, from his first wife to all the strippers and prostitutes he hangs out with and brings to office as perks for his employees.
Oh, and there are elaborate orgy scenes, but only up to a point that an R-rated film can show.
We have to believe that the story Belfort narrates is all true (and I hear the book is a lot more excessive). But the film Scorsese has made -- while quite enjoyable at times -- seems like a never-ending exercise in decadence and debauchery.
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Image: Jonah Hill and Lenoardo DiCaprio
Why Aseem Chhabra liked Philomena
British filmmaker Steven Frears’s new film Philomena is the exact opposite of Wolf.
It is a moving, quiet, sweet, little film, something the British excel at.
At the heart of the film is an old Irish woman who sets out on a journey with a journalist to search for her son who was given up for adoption when he was four.
Frears’s early work include two remarkable studies of the Pakistani community in England during the height of Margaret Thatcher’s rule.
My Beautiful Launderette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, landmark films about the South Asian Diaspora and based on Hanif Kureishi's screenplays, showed the youthful, angry, filmmaking phase of the director and his scriptwriter.
Over the years, Frears has calmed down, and has dealt with delicate subjects, including the Oscar-winning The Queen.
Based on a true story and a script by actor and comedian Steve Coogan (who also plays the journalist, Martin), Philomena has very powerful, heartwarming, performances by Judy Dench and Coogan.
Philomena was a runner-up for the People Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It also won the best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival.
The holiday season is packed with loud, big budget, films, including Dhoom 3, which broke the North America box office record for a Bollywood film in the opening weekend. Philomena is a lovely alternative for people looking for a change from all the noise and clutter that the other films provide.
Image: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena