The Wolf of Wall Street: The Facade of Greed

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the life of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), also known as the “Wolf of Wall Street.” Belfort started his Wall Street career as a humble cold-caller working under boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey). With Hanna’s mentoring, however, Belfort becomes a drug-using, hooker-loving, smooth-talker. After his first day with his broker’s license is cut short thanks to the infamous Black Monday (October 19, 1987), Belfort is forced to find a new job with a seedy investment center, which rips off customers by taking 50% commission from penny stocks. Eventually, Belfort breaks away to start his own company, Stratton Oakmont, Inc., with new friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). Together, with a group of friends, Belfort and Azoff fraud their way to the top of Wall Street. That is, of course, until FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) gets on their tail.

The Wolf of Wall Street marks the (I’ve lost count) time director Martin Scorsese and his muse/protégé Leonardo DiCaprio have worked together on a film. Have they ever made a bad movie together? I don’t think they have, which is why I went into this movie with high expectations. Of course, those expectations were not disappointed. Though it’s not the typical Scorsese film. Usually, he sticks to dramas with lots of violence, crime, and angry Italian actors. The Wolf of Wall Street is certainly about crime and the drama around that crime, but it’s done with such an effortless sense of humor (Maybe that’s why the Golden Globes mistook this for a comedy).

Just so you’re not confused about what you’re going to get out of The Wolf of Wall Street, know that the opening of the film includes a scene where Leo’s Jordan Belfort snorts something (most likely cocaine) out of a hooker’s ass. Yeah, and that’s only the beginning. Dwarf-tossing, Quaalude, “The Money Chant,” an orgy with a gay butler, an out-of-control airplane bachelor party with hookers, hookers, and more hookers—it just keeps getting crazier and crazier. But, I mean, Scorsese is telling the story (Yes, it’s obviously fictionalized for the movie) about the shady lifestyle of insanely rich stockbrokers, particularly the ultimate player of the Wall Street game, Belfort.

There was a lot of discussion about this movie’s depiction of Jordan Belfort and Wall Street. Some said the movie glorified Belfort’s swindling lifestyle while others said it didn’t. Personally, I think it did both. It glamorized Belfort and his money for the “movie experience” so that we could watch his funny drug-fueled yachting and partying escapades. But when Belfort lost that money, as well as his job and family, it showed that there wasn’t anything real in his life (or in his character). His dominance in Wall Street had been faked through stock fraud. His second wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) never really loved him for who he was. Even his friendships fell apart because every man was in it for himself. Basically, everything was a façade created by the money.

Speaking of the façade, the movie doesn’t really delve into why Belfort was the way he was. Where Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld explained why he hustled people out of their money in American Hustle, all we got with Belfort was character development as shallow as the character, himself. Did Belfort do the things he did because he was making up for his lower-middle class upbringing, or was it simply the desire for more that tainted him? We never get a good answer. And I can’t tell if this was just poor screenwriting, or if the screenwriters purposely made Belfort a shallow character with no other motive than preying upon the weak (a.k.a. the poor and those who can’t manage their money) to personify this movie’s message about greed.

That being said, Leonardo DiCaprio puts in one hell of a performance (which usually happens when he and Scorsese work together). The monologues where he breaks the fourth wall are so goddamn good, and I really, really hate him even though he’s the movie’s anti-protagonist. Quite frankly, the sequence where he gets so high on Quaalude that he goes into what he calls “cerebral palsy phase” (Yeah, terrible person) and can’t make it out of the country club without crawling and rolling to his Lamborghini is hysterical and enraging all at the same time. Poor Leo wants his Oscar so bad with this movie, and I would be inclined to say it’s his, but I already know he’ll get his ass beat by Ejiofor, Hanks, or McConaughey, who killed it this year.

My biggest problem with this movie is that it’s WAY too long (like by an hour). During The Wolf of Wall Street, I looked at my watch six times, wondering how much longer it would be before the movie ended. It didn’t help that I went to the 9pm showing either. I swear that, sometime during the last decade, filmmakers thought it would be funny to make us watch their three-hour monstrosities after they’ve already snatched $10 from us at the door. Nope. Not okay. When there are fantastic movies like Gravity that communicate a story so well in 90 minutes that I forget I’m in a movie theater, three hours is not okay. Seriously, Marty. Brevity is the soul of wit.

Overall, The Wolf of Wall Street is a wild and crazy ride through the life of the infamous Jordan Belfort. Scorsese gets yet another fantastic performance out of Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the charming yet despicable wolf. Be prepared for tons of nudity, drugs, and fast-talking because this movie is all about the lifestyle of Wall Street. While some people think this movie glorifies the perverted, greedy bastards that make up our country’s stock exchange, I actually felt like it shows us exactly what happens when people climb the money piles (Hint: They can’t stay up). Fair warning if you plan to see this movie though—it’s long as all hell.

The Wolf of Wall Street: A-

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