Welcome to the wonderful world of 1990’s stock trading, a world juiced to the gills with money, sex and drugs, a world in which the strong are made stronger thanks to their unbridled greed and ambition, a world in which even the righteous are envious of the spoils of the wicked, a world in which money can pretty much buy just about anything, a world in which a stockbroker rewards his loyal staff with airplane sex orgies, a world directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and named “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
“The Wolf of Wall Street” is a movie based on a memoir by a stock broker turned convicted felon turned motivational surprise (shock!), so to say that the world portrayed in this film is actually several steps away from reality would be an understatement. But of course, this IS a movie, and should we be expecting reality in any way? Nope. Even though some things portrayed in this film did happen and still do happen in the real world, it’s still a compendium of made up shit, meant to paint a bigger picture. Facts are not necessary to convey universal truths. So what “truths” are in “The Wolf of Wall Street?”
The main character of this movie Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a rag to riches kinda guy, who hustled his way up the financial ladder by finding a way to manipulate and abuse a barely regulated system already set in place. The only thing he had to do was push his ethics aside, as he found a way to make quick money by selling bad stocks to people who didn’t know any better, and while he wasn’t necessary taking these people’s money, as he was making commission money on each transaction, he was basically telling dumb people to just throw thousands of dollars at a time down a dark hole, never to hear or see that money again as the company invested in was more than likely complete shit anyway. And Belfort not only pushed his ethics aside, he pushed it off the edge of a skyscraper, and then shot his ethics with a bazooka on the way down just to make sure, because he not only set up people to fail just so he could succeed, but he did so eagerly and at times spitefully.
Is Jordan Belfort one of the biggest assholes in all of cinema? That’s a tough one. There have been some BIG assholes in movies. But this character, good golly, really takes the cake it seems. And though this is the story of a person from the 1990’s, it still seems very relevant today because of the ever widening economic gap in this country, as the rich really do get richer and while the poor don’t necessarily get poorer, there are just more poor people overall. And of course we’re talking about GREED, which must be one of the original reasons why a fight between Homo sapiens ever broke out during the evolution of this planet, greed is just so ingrained in us all that no one can ever be truly surprised when they find out the depths of someone’s greed, whether that be a Jordan Belfort, or a Bernie Madoff, or even a Charles Ponzi.
So Belfort makes a lot of money at the expense of the sheep just lining up to be shorn, and his friends and underlings make a lot of money too, and everyone is happy and jubilant and partying all the way up until the hammer comes down in the form of the good old FBI, because if ANYONE is going to spoil someone’s awesome party, it’s going to be Mr. No Fun himself Uncle Sam.
There seems to be some rumblings and communications from people in regards to the content of this film and the ethics of the film itself, as people are wondering if “The Wolf of Wall Street” is actually glamorizing this world and whether or not Martin Scorsese actually admires his lead character Jordan Belfort. Because apparently if you show people having a good time, you are condoning what they are doing, right? Doesn’t matter what comes before or after these scenes? That seems wrong. Sure the party scenes are shown in a cool and stylistic manner and the movie takes time to revel in some of the luxuries Jordan Belfort affords thanks to his corrupt lifestyle, but this is also a movie based on a memoir by the stock broker who lived this life, and of course he’s going to revel in those details because for him that’s what it was all about. The end game of him making so much money was to be able to live such a debauched lifestyle, like some old Roman Emperor or medieval king, so of course these scenes would be shown in a positive way, because they came at a point in Belfort’s life that he deemed positive himself in some way.
But only focusing on the “fun” middle ignores the inevitable downfall, we see it coming from a mile away, we watch it happen in front of us, and then to pretend that this didn’t happen, the movie glorifies immoral behavior despite showing the consequences of that behavior? Nope, doesn’t work that way. Now, if this movie ended with the Belfort character telling the FBI to jump off a bridge, and they proceeded to do so, and then Belfort lived out the rest of his life happy and making money, THAT would be a glorification of his behavior. And if you see this movie and read the final shot as anything but a big downer for Belfort, then you are misreading the whole thing.
And one more thing, in regards to the folks wondering if Martin Scorsese is glorifying questionable practices with this movie – we do all know we’re talking about the same Martin Scorsese, right? The one who probably heard the exact same complains when he made that little masterpiece called “Goodfellas,” a movie which does glorify violence and crime and the mafia lifestyle, all the way up until the moment it condemns it. This is the guy who made a movie about a horny Jesus played by Willem Dafoe. He took EMTs and made them into drug-addled, stark raving lunatics. Just because this guy is in his 70’s and finally made his first family film in the form of “Hugo” doesn’t mean he’s slowed down any in terms of his cinematic ferocity. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is in your face, it is very loud, and it is proud of its excess and over the top appearance and irresistible charm just like Jordan Belfort himself.
Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese recently said he only has a couple of films left in him, so enjoy these while we got ’em, folks, because something as special and great as a “new Scorsese picture” will be a thing of the past soon. And who will those prone to illogical hysterics moan and complain about then?