New Films I’ve Seen Recently

A The Wolf of Wall Street
Back in September, I suggested that Martin Scorsese could have done The Great Gatsby justice. Now I know for sure. In this based-on-a-true-story epic, his best filmimage since Goodfellas, he takes us into a glamorous world and makes it look ugly and degenerate. Leonardo DiCaprio brings energy, charisma, recklessness, and charming evil to the lead role of a crooked stockbroker swimming in very profitable larceny. He’s also swimming in drugs and whores. Funny and grotesque, Wolf occasionally tricks you into rooting for DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, but not for long. Everything in this fast-paced, three-hour film just fits perfectly. People will talk about the Popeye sequence for years to come.

A- Blue is the Warmest Color
This three-hour, dead-serious drama about young French lesbians may be the best examination of a relationship–from start to finish–since Annie Hall. You see everything through the eyes of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a high school girl at the imagestart of the movie and an elementary school teacher by the end. She meets the older, more experienced Emma (Léa Seydoux) and sparks fly. Over the years they build a life together, than grow apart. A few gaps in the story annoyed me; for instance, at one point we realize that Adèle hasn’t come out to her parents; then the story skips ahead a few years and we never see or hear about them again. How did they react when they were told? But for the most part, the intense emotions and careful pacing deftly captured an experience that almost all human beings can understand and relate to. And yes, there’s some very explicit soft-core sex, and yes, it would have been a weaker movie without it.

B Nebraska
A good film, but not as good as I’ve learned to expect from Alexander Payne. Yes, Bruce Dern hits the nail on the head for his first lead role since Silent Running. And yes, the movie is filled imagewith Payne’s trademark human touch and low-key humor. But this father/son road movie, with the father sinking into dementia as the son deals with his own emotional problems, could have lost 20 minutes and have been a better film for it. And the ending sinks too deeply into sentimentality. But the good moments, and there are plenty, make up for a lot of the weaknesses.