On the face of it these are two quite different films, but really they both have similar themes throughout. Both depict debauchery, and follow the life of a highly flawed main character who the viewer ideally sympathises with. While you would call neither an out and out comedy, both definitely have comic elements throughout. Having seen both quite recently, I thought I would compare the two and work out which is better. So, onto the categories:
- Main Character
At the heart of both of these movies is the sort of antihero central character, played by James McAvoy in Filth and Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street. Now in this I’m not just going to compare the two actor’s performances (and I can tell you both are spot on) but really I’m comparing how much the audience roots for this character. Both are played out as while heavily flawed, as relatively sympathetic. But I found only one of these characters at all sympathetic. And that was James McAvoy in Filth. Now that is not to say that Leo isn’t brilliant, he is, I just hated his character. Both are sleazy, but where I could see a glimmer of a character out of his depth who at heart just wants to be loved, I saw none of this in Leonardo’s character. I found it very difficult to feel empathy with someone who cheats regularly, is a horrible misogynist and honestly has all too few redeeming features. And I think this comes down to the internal conflicts both of them face, while the main challenge Leo faces is “well I probably shouldn’t cheat on my wife because she is gorgeous and lovely and always there for me and I have two children, but I quite like having sex with people” James actually faces a proper conflict of trying somehow to put his childhood trauma behind him, and move on from all of the loss he faces, sometimes through drugs, sometimes through sex, but he knows deep down nothing will help him. In terms of the main character there really is no contest as to which the viewer will root for more.
Verdict – FILTH
Both of these films are very striking visually, from the blaringly bright colours of the Wall Street hooker drug party things, to the seethingly bleak Glasgow backstreets in Filth. It is very clear that both have gone for different kinds of striking landscapes. While in Wolf the colouring is overtly bright and showy, Filth displays this wonderful scale of greys and, well, filthy visuals. So which is the more potent on the eyes? Well really I can’t pick which of the films looks better. Both are absolutely fantastic to look at, and completely achieve their individual goals.
As I have previously said both films contain a certain comic element, but which is the funnier of the two? Well both to a degree use similar humorous devices: the not-especially-streetwise mate (Eddie Marsan and Jonah Hill), a copious amount of swearing and psychedelic interludes. So on these few like terms, I can tell you that Eddie Marsan is much funnier than Jonah Hill, the swearing in Filth – I find – to be more potent and thus I laughed more, Filth also manages it’s weird side perhaps not as efficiently, but the moments are so odd it works. Overall I found Filth to be far the funnier movie. In fact, I didn’t actually laugh at Wolf very much.
Verdict – FILTH
Both have gone for the mix of classic film soundtrack and popular songs, with Scorsese using his trademark blues tracks, along with some jazz and more modern rock songs, and Baird employing the often comic use of songs with emotions that conflict with those that are being shown on screen (see especially the David Soul song) contrasting to Scorsese’s often sympathetic use of songs. Overly though, I think I preferred the soundtrack of Wolf of Wall Street just because it’s so cool, and it keeps you immersed, where in Filth the oddness of the score sometimes threatened to remove that emersion.
Verdict – WOLF OF WALL STREET
- Overall Enjoyment
Now, I know films don’t have to be fun to be good. Just look at Goodfellas or Schindler’s List. But it’s certainly an element to take into account. And really here there is no discussion, because while I could argue with myself over which film is to be admired for its craft more, there is no contest as to which I enjoyed more. And that film is Filth.
Verdict – FILTH
So, now we’ve seen all of my categories, I think it’s clear which film all things considered is the better one. And that is Filth. While I do admire the craftsmanship of Wolf of Wall Street, I don’t do it more so than I would with Filth. Only Filth manages to me masterfully made, and enjoyable at the same time.