Jordan Belfort was released in 2006 after spending nearly two years in prison. Being incarcerated for stock swindling, he was left with plenty of time to write his memoirs. His autobiographical writings are the basis for this recent crime comedy directed by Martin Scorsese. The Wolf of Wall Street has both been praised and criticized for its depiction of events. One thing is for sure: the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays Jordan Belfort, is an entertaining ride.
The ambitious Belfort takes a job as a stockbroker at a reputed firm. He quickly learns the ropes, including extensive drug use, but unfortunately the firm goes bankrupt. Belfort is forced to accept a job at a small company that trades penny stocks. Being an excellent salesmen he is highly successful and founds his own firm together with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and a group of salesmen he befriended. His new firm, Stratton Oakmont, focuses on the ‘whales’: clients with lots of money. Essentially they inflate the value of a company by convincing clients to buy shares, but then quickly sell their own shares, profiting of the increased value and duping the clients in the process. And more money, for Belfort and his peers, means a matching lifestyle.
The Wolf of Wall Street paints an exuberant picture: yachts, parties, women, midgets (what?), cocaine, quaalude (look it up). It’s all there and the mix is right: it’s an entertaining roller coaster ride. Of course: you are looking at con men. Although I understand the controversy, some of the most enjoyable movies and series are about questionable characters. Secretly, everyone (also) likes characters that are not brave and honest. Though the movie does show Belfort’s downfall, it does so only very briefly. Perhaps rightly so, otherwise this would have been a very different movie.
Leonardi DiCaprio portrays an excellent Jordan Belfort, which at times borders on insane only to swing back again to overly friendly. His motivational speeches are perhaps a bit too long-winded and further drive up the running time, which is already a hefty 180 minutes. Nevertheless, perhaps this is offset after the office turns into a crazy monkey cage afterwards. There’s very little to criticize from a cinematic point of view. The story is a bit light, but that’s also characteristic of the crime comedy genre. One could also see this as satire: a complaint against a part of society where money is no longer a means, but an end. Recommended, regardless of the interpretive angle. Sell me this pen!
Copyright © 2013 Paramount Pictures.