The Sleazy Scorsese of Wall Street

January 10, 2014 - 6:38 AM
Inside twisted Tinseltown, Martin Scorsese has marked a new career achievement. His latest film, "The Wolf of Wall Street," includes a mighty 506 uses of the F-bomb in its three-hour running time. That's almost three curse words a minute.

Someone has proclaimed this the new record for F-bombs. Another Hollywood high mark. Scorsese often has hundreds of F-bombs in his films about crooks. But this takes the cake.

"That was a badge of honor for me, to be in a Martin Scorsese movie and say the F-word," actor-director Rob Reiner told a TMZ.com interviewer in a parking lot. When he was reminded about the movie's 500-plus curse count, he smiled and said, "I don't worry about that."

Though the movie's stars are sounding worried about that, as the film has limped at the box office since its profane debut on Christmas day. (Happy birthday, Jesus!) It drew an "awful" score of C from ticket-buyers on Cinemascore, and bad word of mouth could be behind its declining sales. The Daily Beast is selling the movie's 21 craziest moments, calling the film an "outrageously depraved orgy of sex, cocaine, and midget-tossing."

In several interviews, actor Jonah Hill, who fought his way into being cast in the movie, tried to argue that naysayers are misunderstanding it, which he's painting as a very profane morality tale.

"I personally take away the message from the film that this behavior, this lifestyle, leads to a very bad ending," the actor told Variety. "I think the movie is not glorifying this behavior, it is showing that it leads to bad places whether their judicial punishment doesn't reflect that is one thing. Where your life ends up, who you are as a person, is another."

The movie's top star, Leonardo DiCaprio, broke out what should be called the "Howard Stern defense." When you're incredibly perverse, praise your work for its "honesty" to the human condition. The director is being "unapologetic" as the film "shakes the foundations of society."

Scorsese isn't really trying to scold Wall Street. He's being a cinematic sensationalist, a linguistic and sexual exhibitionist. He wants this to be dramatically over the top, even while everyone proclaims it's incredibly true to life.

Critics have generally liked the movie, considering the director's renown in Hollywood. But not everyone. On NPR's Dec. 23 "The Diane Rehm Show," David Denby of The New Yorker was harsh. "I dislike it and I'm a big Scorsese fan. I think it's a fake. By that, I mean under the guise of being a satirical attack on this obscene, disgusting, over-the-top, profane sexist behavior on Wall Street, it is itself an example of over-the-top obscene, profane, disgusting."

Denby said Ray Liotta's central character in "Goodfellas" was much more credible and artistic, but this film had "an almost hysterical overemphasis, as if Scorsese was saying, 'I may be 71, but I'm still king. You know, I'm going to out-Tarantino Tarantino. I'm going to make the wildest, craziest movie you've ever seen.' And it really, I think, is oppressive."

So far, "The Wolf of Wall Street" has only grossed $66 million after costing $100 million to make. In its second weekend, it came in fourth at the box office. This may be due in part to the film's promotional trailer, which paints a misleading picture of a fun film about some sleazy stockbrokers with nothing more than a few seconds alluding to the parade of sex, drugs and debauchery.

Meanwhile at the top of the box office — in its sixth weekend — was "Frozen." With a worldwide cumulative gross of more than $600 million, it is now the second highest-grossing Disney Animation release of all time, behind "The Lion King."

It produced the third highest sixth weekend ever behind "Avatar" and "Titanic," and "Frozen" is also the first movie to hold the top spot on its sixth weekend since "Avatar" did four years ago. "Frozen" has just passed $300 million at the domestic box office.

Scorsese & Co. will hope for some Oscar nominations as a way to boost their underwhelming box office numbers. But the Hollywood manipulators behind awards season shouldn't be allowed to blur the message being sent to Scorsese and his studio enablers at Paramount.

How many times must they learn that a super-sleazy spectacle is usually going to get trumped at the ticket counter by a film the whole family can enjoy?