Monday, 20 January 2014

Wolf of Wall Street, 12 years a Slave and American Hustle.

You can see why DiCaprio would have jumped at the chance to play Jordan Belfort, in Scorsese's latest offering. Rumour has it that Leo found Belfort's book and talked ole buddy Marty into making it. Just imagine the rip-roaring, heart-attack inducing joy he must have had going 'method' on this one....

In short it is a 3 hour drugs and fuck fest. If Belfort can't snort it or screw it, then unless it is green, he has no interest in it. This man makes a puddle look deep. He begins the film supping water at lunch, agreeing to jerk off as many times as his coke-addicted hairprayed boss tells him to and ends it... well, not a million miles away from here... Maybe this is the point - and I have wildly missed it. The point being Belfort doesn't need to grow or learn or change. Fine - but without the above, why are we watching exactly?

DiCaprio acts his expensive loafers off, and yet, we don't give a toss about him. Henry Hill he aint. No matter how much he bawls and brays, he lacks the charm, the charisma, the vulnerability of Henry... or any of his relationships. The POV shots that illustrated Henry's ascent into the bosom of his mafia family here are used to show Belfort's ascent into a coke-addled, hooker sprawling jet plane, depositing him and his mates in the most soulless of all places - Vegas.

Watching The Wolf on Wall Street you feel like you have ingested several lines of marching powder - racing you through shag after shag, deal after deal, bump after bump. The frenetic pace momentarily makes you forget that there is NO story. No obstacles, no jeopardy, no journey, no resolution. Just one man on a mission because... nope, I don't even know why money is all that mattered to this hollow man.

Occasionally there are brilliant flashes of humour - watching Belfort crawl on his stomach to his car after he has necked a handful of lemon Quaaludes is hysterical - but it isn't enough to warrant giving up 3 hours of your life to view. Everyone around Belfort is as fake and as smooth as a hooker's tits: his buddies, his stunning wife, his lawyers, his reflection. The thought as I exited the cinema: not, what a film! I must tell everyone to see it. Rather, shit, I need a bikini wax.

Marty, you are better than this....


The joy in a Steve McQueen film is also a paradox: so harrowing you cannot look, so mesmerising you cannot tear your eyes away. What other director can make you shift so uncomfortably in your seat, as your eyes flicker upwards, hungry for more?

12 Years a Slave has been accused of showing nothing new, and yet, name me another film that captures the horrors of slavery so magnificently? Hollywood would rather focus on any other tragedy than awaken it's own demons - so it has taken a British director to remind the world of the slavery that existed in America (and still exists worldwide) in the 1800s.

The story is bleak: Soloman Northup, a free man - carpenter and musician, is tricked, kidnapped and sold into a life of slavery. The brutality and inhumanity of his captors is extraordinary - and yet this is just the beginning. To survive he must pretend he cannot read or write, accept his captivity and relinquish all thoughts of escape. Eventually he ends up working for Edwin Epps - a man whose cruelty knows no bounds. Michael Fassbender is chilling in this role. We cannot loathe his character more than he loathes himself - yet he is incapable of showing empathy of any kind.

No easy watch... this film sure is difficult to swallow. But amidst this despair, is unparalleled beauty - in the burning embers of a letter, the dip of a southern tree, in the stillness of a moment. McQueen bravely shows us a man being strung up and left to hang, as around him the world carries on... not just for a fleeting glance, but for a ridiculously tense, torturous minute. If there is any sense of what is right, it should be McQueen clutching a little gold man on March 2nd, but I fear the Academy will be too afraid to applaud such a challenging watch. Shame. (Which by the way, is another extraordinary McQueen film).


Perhaps I am alone in thinking Silver Linings Playbook was good, but a fraction off 'great.' That fraction for me, was down to the fact that Bradley Cooper's character had no turning point - he went from cray cray to non cray cray in about a day. But let's not pick hairs - it is a brilliant, poignant movie - a love story to rival that of Drive.

But, for the LOVE OF GOD, why so much Hustle love?????

No.1 It was an act too long - wrap it up at the party scene - you know what I'm sayin'.
No. 2. Jenn Lawrence (inevitable I'm sure) steals every scene she is in and shows up just how one note Amy Adams's performance is. Sorry, I love her and wish she had won an Oscar for Junebug, but this is NOT her finest hour.
No. 3 I got bored of her cleavage - I swear to god I did. Put them away love...
No. 4 The plot is bumbling - at best.
No. 5 It all gets so neatly sewn up in the end it feels massively contrived.
No. 6 Jeremy Renner is amazing, as is Christian Bale - but the story - forgeddaboutit.

Fun - sure. A great date movie - you betcha. But hang my Oscars on it and call it a classic - NEVER! It feels like a watered down Casino... Which brings me back to where I started... wishing for Scorsese at his best. (After Hours anyone?)

Still on my to watch list: Her, Dallas Buyer's Club and Nebraska. Oh and if you wanna have a gander at my Oscar predictions: fill yer boots here.

But, for the record, this is one of my fav times of year - when you have a list of movies you want to check out, when the multiplexes aren't filled with re-make crap and superhero bollox, when you sit in the darkness and emerge, a little different than when you went in. When a movie actually takes you somewhere...


1 comment:

Joanne Mallon said...

Love reading your reviews. It's such a strong year for films. I've seen Her and Dallas Buyers Club - both excellent, though both quite unsettling in different ways.