3 on 3: Will 'The Wolf of Wall Street' be a new Martin Scorsese classic?

Posted by · 2:58 pm · June 17th, 2013


The trailer for Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill among others, sent a shock wave last night when it finally dropped. Set to the pulse of Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” (releasing tomorrow as part of the rapper’s already-leaked sixth studio album, “Yeezus”), it announced a whole new shade for the filmmaker that has brought us delicious bite in a wide array of films, from “Taxi Driver” to “Goodfellas” to “The Departed.”

Will this take on capitalism’s great shame, coming at just the right time, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those classics? Time will tell. Will Marty dance with the awards season once more after nearly owning it two years ago with “Hugo?” Time will tell. But for now, the electric new tease raises a couple of questions, so three of HitFix’s staffers take a stab at answering them in a new installment of our “3 on 3” feature. Check out the conversation below.

1. Is Martin Scorsese’s work with Leonardo DiCaprio becoming the defining collaboration of his career?

Gregory Ellwood: Not yet, but it’s possible. Arguably, the only one of their collaborations we can say is in Scorsese’s top five is “The Departed.” On the other hand, Robert De Niro and Scorsese, at the least, have “Raging Bull,” “Cape Fear” and “Goodfellas.” But based on the fact that they’ve made five films together there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t eventually top his work with De Niro.

Guy Lodge: Not a chance, in my opinion — and I say that as a great admirer of three of the four DiCaprio/Scorsese joints we’ve seen so far. But not one of their collaborations — not even Best Picture winner “The Departed” — has attained the long-term (or even short-term) critical standing of a “Raging Bull,” the era-reflecting cultural import of a “Taxi Driver” or even the immediate genre canonization of a “GoodFellas.” Could “The Wolf of Wall Street” be the film that takes this relationship to the next level? Never say never. But Scorsese’s work with De Niro will always be the defining collaboration of both men’s careers, not necessarily because they’re better films, but because it’s the work that announced them to the world at large. Scorsese’s DiCaprio collaborations can’t define him because he was already defined way before “Gangs of New York” rolled onto screens. Whether this will be the defining collaboration of DiCaprio’s career, however, is another question.

Kristopher Tapley: The truth is, we can’t really know yet. Scorsese made classics with Robert De Niro. No question. And they will endure. But meanwhile, his work with DiCaprio continues to reach new generations, which could arguably have a deeper impact given the way pop culture deals with these things. These are, quite possibly, the “new classics,” if you will, and if this partnership is to continue, and continue to reach significant highs, I see no reason not to one day consider the Scorsese/DiCaprio years more definitive than the Scorsese/De Niro years. It has very little to do with the quality of output and everything to do with the way history views it. History already views Scorsese/De Niro as a landmark, so it goes without saying, even with five films already, Scorsese/DiCaprio have a long way to go yet.

2. Could the film show up in the comedy/musical category at the Golden Globes?

Gregory Ellwood: Based on the trailer, sure, but movie previews can be deceiving. Expect Paramount to push it to whatever is the weaker of the two categories. And, yes, that’s obviously comedy/musical. But at this point it’s just too early to call.

Guy Lodge: I daren’t expect anything yet, because as slick, smart and grandly entertaining as the trailer is, it doesn’t make entirely clear to me what kind of animal the film is. There may be plenty of wit in the piece, but this is also tough-minded, potentially bleak material — how much of that is being disguised in the sexy sell? Of course, the film may well qualify in our minds as a comedy, but that’s not to say the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will agree — from “American Beauty” to “The Descendants,” many prestige films have walked a fine line between drama and comedy, and been categorized as the former at the Globes, lending their awards campaigns a little extra weight. (One might speculate that male-driven films, often, tend to fall on that side of the borderline.)

Kristopher Tapley: You find the word “hilarious” thrown around a lot when reading about Jordan Belfort’s tell-all. And obviously, the trailer is playing the film up as a high-key romp in many ways (though I’ve also, by the way, heard it’s borderline NC-17 due to the sex on display). I’ve never read the book but it would be an interesting proposition for Paramount to consider submitting it as a comedy if indeed it has an argument there, because it would breathe more wind into its sails while Jason Reitman’s drama “Labor Day” can have room to itself. And given the HFPA’s adoration of stars, well, DiCaprio could have a clearer path to a potential win in the comedy field. He told me at the Golden Globes last year that he thinks this is the best work he’s done, after all. So…we’ll see; it goes without saying, we need to see if the film has the goods at all first.

3. Could Matthew McConaughey be having the best two-year comeback ever?

Gregory Ellwood: It’s hard to argue against it. McConaughey is now the textbook case for a Hollywood star completely reviving his career in the art house circuit. Based on “Bernie” ($10 million) and “Mud” ($20 million), indie theater owners would love for him to keep making more in that vein. And thanks to the success of “Magic Mike” and possibly now “The Wolf of Wall Street,” he’s made the difficult transition to a supporting player who can bring in an audience (is Russell Crowe next?). “Dallas Buyer’s Club” could land him his first Best Actor nomination to date, plus he’s got a little new movie by Christopher Nolan on the way (“Interstellar”). Yep, it’s good to be Matt.

Guy Lodge: It’s up there, for sure. Not that films like “Fool’s Gold” give you anywhere to go but up, but he’s barely put a foot wrong since his pretty nifty turn in “The Lincoln Lawyer” — even a relative flop like “The Paperboy” has built up enough cult cachet to reflect well on him. Though he’s always had charisma, I never quite bought McConaughey as a charmer: there’s a slippery, slightly venal quality to his all-American hunkiness that worked in character turns like “Lone Star” and “13 Conversations About One Thing,” but was slightly off-putting in the endless spate of rom-coms he kept getting cast in. He seems to have realized that now he’s in his 40s, and revealing a seedier side in films like “Magic Mike,” “Killer Joe” and “Mud” has resulted in career-best work. His first Oscar nod should have come earlier this year, but it can’t be far away.

Kristopher Tapley: I smile when I think of this. I really do. McConaughey is a guy who detoured to the paycheck dark side (“mailbox money,” as he’s called it), but now finds the freedom to do what he wants, and he’s making some of the most varied and interesting choices of any actor in the business. And let’s also not forget his segue to the small screen in HBO’s “True Detective.” That will bring a whole new evaluation of his worth in the industry. For a guy to be working with heavyweights like Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderbergh, upstarts like Cary Fukunaga and Jeff Nichols, art house helmers like Lee Daniels, (old buddy) Richard Linklater and Jean-Marc Vallée and legends like William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese, that says to me he’s hungry and wants to expand. And I really can’t think of anyone who’s turned it around with that kind of ferocity before.

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