There are times when Margot Robbie's beauty feels so glossy and airbrushed in The Wolf of Wall Street that she feels almost CGIed in. But, as previously mentioned, Robbie seems to have shaken off whatever dullness once clung to that considerable if generic Barbie Doll beauty. Her Naomi LaPaglia is a hungry performance. It's not just Jordan Belfort that'll be opening the wallet and offering her everything, but Hollywood proper. Expect her to be rumored for every role in her age bracket in 3...2...1...
Scorsese has a long history of vivid supporting women in his movies. And yet, the women in his movies trouble me. They often pop but that isn't necessarily a tough assignment for a beautiful woman to clear, especially when she's the sole woman in a sea of somewhat interchangeable men, the men often playing variations on the same type within their rigidly masculine conformist communities.
Which is to say that Scorsese's films are never about the woman even when they're inordinately feminine (The Age of Innocence). Perhaps Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a glorious exception but couldn't it be argued that that fluke sprung from Scorsese's obsession with film genres (let's try a 'woman's picture' this time) more than anything else? [more...]
Wolf of Wall Street, for example, is very interested in Margot's Naomi but only insofar as she reflects Jordan's success or can be displayed as his ultimate trophy among other glorious possessions: yacht, mansion, limos, etcetera. I don't have a screener to see how far this runs or to verify that I'm not stretching but I believe costume designer Sandy Powell and production designer Bob Shaw even color code her on at least three occassions to illustrate this point.
With the exception of two characters, Belfort's first wife (Cristin Milotti) and a peculiar aunt of Naomi's (Joanna Lumley), who each of have maybe 1% of screen time, the women in Wolf of Wall Street are all either naked or soulless or silent... or some combo of the three.
The Wolf of Wall Street is currently being hotly debated in regards to that always tricky 'celebration vs condemnation' tightrope that satire has to walk. The movie's sexism gets lumped in with that argument, too. Is it a misogynistic film because it portrays that particular community's sexism or is it just sexist in and of itself? Women are treated as Magnolia's Frank TJ Mackie would have them treated as "sperm receptacles" but I'd argue that the gender imbalance goes at least a little bit further than just the aping of Belfort's POV. All of the women in the film cease to exist when they aren't somehow serving Jordan's insatiable lust or greed. This is not true of the male characters, some of whom have scenes without Belfort. And Kyle Chandler's FBI agent seems to exist outside of Jordan's point of view. He even gets a coda scene of his own, indicating the director's interest. Another more superficial distinction gender-wise but still something that's hard not to notice: Margot Robbie is seen in the (spectacular) altogether, and dozens of other women are also flagrantly strewn about in several scenes, tits out. But when it comes time for Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill to get naked their dignity is preserved with a sock or a prosthetic cock, respectively. This is, of course, standard business in Hollywood which has always preferred objectifying the female body and been precious about "blocking" views of the male body lest anyone see a penis. Scorsese, for all his particular daring elsewhere, plays by the traditional Hollywood rules in this regard which just reminds you that the movies remain a place of great gender imbalance: men both onscreen and watching the screen are people whose sensitivities and "gaze" must be protected and women are decorative objects.
While I was thinking about this, a reader sent me this photo (I heart you, Marcus!) that I don't recall ever seeing before. It has me as hot and bothered as panty-free Naomi makes Jordan on their bedroom floor. It's just so actressy and mid 90s (La Pfeiffer, Noni, Sharon F@#*ing Stone) which are two of my favorite things.
I have no grand point to wrap up with but should say that online discourse about The Wolf of Wall Street hasn't really made me want to see it again. I liked much of it, particularly the performances, but the running time is punishing (especially this time of year when there's a supply and demand problem with time itself). The conversation has made me want to sit down immediately with Goodfellas (1990) which just seems like many lifetimes ago for me while other people seem to have it memorized.
A weird notion has cropped up in the comments here at The Film Experience that I don't like Scorsese films that I feel I must combat. I'm assuming this started because Scorsese's output for the last 9 years hasn't appealed to me much. But the man has been around a lot longer than nine years! I think Hugo and Wolf are lovely and interesting respectively but they're also repetitive/bloated and Gangs of New York I just have no patience for whatsoever. The misconception may have come because I do not worship his filmography as unequivocally as so many critics appear to. My best guess as to why is that I am 1000% more fascinated by women than Scorsese who is inarguably more interested in the psychology of men and the dynamics and power hierarchies of masculine communities.
Nathaniel's Favorite Scorseses
1. The King of Comedy (1983)
2. Taxi Driver (1976)
They're the two that I'd put on a top 100 list of greatest films of my lifetime.
3. The Departed (2006)
4. Raging Bull (1980)
5. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
6. New York New York (1977)
The order changes depending on mood but they're all very strong films. "New York New York" has the same indulgence problem that plagues Wolf which is why it's as low as it is (because otherwise I lurve it) but it also has Liza's greatest performance outside of "Cabaret" and big splashy musical numbers instead of cocaine fueled parties for loud assholes so we're good.
7. The Aviator (2004)
8. Cape Fear (1991)
9. The Age of Innocence (1993)
Maybe they're not perfect but i have the fondness
The rest of Scorsese's filmography I am either a) considerably less fond of b) don't remember well enough to judge, or c) haven't seen.