The Wannabe full movie review - Fringe of Scorsese
In an effort to draw maximum audience presence to the showing of "The Wannabe" at a film festival I attended, the advertisers posted almost no other name than Martin Scorsese in association with the film.
This has been common with films of the horror genre. Consequently Wes Craven "presented" a whole lot of movies in his tenure that he never directed. When I found this was only a Scorsese production, I'll admit to being a little crestfallen. What I ended up seeing was a film that was appropriately "not Scorsese."
When it comes to lords of the underworld, building themselves to monolithic heights and suffering a spectacular crescendo of hubris, Scorsese can tell that story in a 3 hour marathon that never spins its wheels. The Wannabe is an anti-epic. This is a 90 minute jaunt that takes place in the fringes of an epic, the John Gotti trials. The limbo that the mob world was in during the Gotti trial of 1992 is the setting for a protagonist whose face wouldn't even be in focus in a Scorsese flick. He is so low on the criminal totem pole that he gets himself arrested almost intentionally, just for some semblance of street- cred.
The story of Thomas (Vincent Piazza) picks up just after his release, where he seems dumbfounded by the lack of respect he receives after his brief incarceration. Fewer people know his name after his release than before. He does have the swagger of the real deal, the kind that would only fool a fool. Such a fool exists in Rose (Patricia Arquette). She is fragile in sobriety, even more so emotionally. They form a relationship in the grand tradition of "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Sid and Nancy" that is both kismet and ill- advised. At a time where she desperately needs to be taken care of, Rose relishes taking care of this young nobody. Throughout their dynamic, it is easy to forgive Thomas for his obliviousness. He is too insensible to blame, and somehow too pathetic to pity. There are fewer things more difficult to watch than someone trying too hard in futility. His efforts are so romanticized that John Gotti's thugs just behold him with an air of, "What the hell do you think this is, a Scorsese movie?"
Thomas's pluck always seems tied up in the fate of Gotti, a man he reveres but has never met. Once Gotti is convicted, Thomas reacts like a super-fan watching a World Series lost in game 7. Any comradery he hoped he attained during the trial is gone. How Thomas reacts to his exclusion becomes a story worthy of mob-lore. Without a dog in the race, Rose follows Thomas headlong into delusional grandeur. That this journey is doomed is obvious from its inception. The reason it has the longevity that it does is the key to the whole film. He is such a no-name he could commit almost any crime without recognition. This is pathetic for the simple reason that his motive is notoriety.
The supporting cast gives this film the feeling of a big production supporting a small one. Thugs from Scorsese movies play tired roles that are more realistic than they would be in their large scale counter parts. The cheap style this story is told in compliments the personalities of its lead characters. Scorsese presenting this film is like John Gotti giving a nod to all the wannabes.