In a Hollywood Elsewhere post on Friday, Jeffrey Wells calls Martin Scorsese's Wolf Of Wall Street "the new Scarface," making a case as to why it might be disliked by a certain faction of viewers.
"I saw Wolf with critics the first time," Wells explains, "but last night’s screening played to a more mixed crowd and they were howling at times, trust me. Losing it, laughing hard. Were they absorbing what Scorsese and DiCaprio were really saying? Sure, of course, but I could sense that they were getting tingly contact highs. For The Wolf of Wall Street takes you back to your wildly irresponsible carousing days, allows you to laugh uproariously at the dumb (and perhaps reprehensible) things you did and have probably forgotten about, and then sets you free when it’s over.
"And yet for older, stodgier types who never went there in their teens or 20s or did and are determined to keep those memories in a locked box (or for those who can’t handle the crude sexual exploitation of women, which has always been a nocturnal characteristic of arrogant Wall Street types), Wolf is going to be seen as an ugly three-hour romp and nothing more. It’s not judgmental enough, Belfort is too much of a prick, what’s the point of this? and so on.
"This is why I’m calling The Wolf of Wall Street the new Scarface. It has so far been shat upon in certain quarters by the same kind of harumphy industry crowd that despised Brian De Palma‘s 1983 crime pic. And just as Scarface eventually became a cult flick (especially among 'urban' rapper/hip-hop types who idolized gangsta culture and the swagger of Al Pacino‘s Tony Montana) it’s probably going to be embraced by (a) present-day party animals and by (b) 40- and 50-somethings those who remember their druggy days and want to enjoy them once again by proxy — a three-hour tour."
Wells continues, "The Scarface Wiki page interprets the film’s reception as follows: 'According to AMC’s "DVD TV: Much More Movie" airing, Cher loved it [but] Lucille Ball, who came with her family, hated it because of the graphic violence and language, and Dustin Hoffman was said to have fallen asleep. Writers Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving were among those who allegedly walked out in disgust after the notorious chainsaw scene. At the middle of the film, Martin Scorsese turned to Steven Bauer and told him, "You guys are great but be prepared, because they’re going to hate it in Hollywood…because it’s about them."
“'Leonard Maltin was among those critics who held a negative opinion of Scarface,' the page says. 'He gave the film 1 1/2 stars out of four, stating that ‘…[Scarface] wallows in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours, and offers no new insights except that crime doesn’t pay.’ In later editions of his annual movie guide, Maltin included an addendum to his review stating his surprise with the film’s newfound popularity as a cult-classic.'
"This is why The Wolf of Wall Street is the only truly bold and nervy film in the Best Picture circle right now. It’s both appalling and gutsy as hell — a wild-ass moralistic 'comedy.' It’s clearly condemning Belfort’s behavior and yet…"