There’s an old French idiom that describes an overly ambitious person as one who has long teeth. “The Wolf of Wall Street” has long teeth. Jordan Belfort, the stockbroker whose life story inspired the film, was found guilty of manipulating the stock market and defrauding investors through a brokerage company called Stratton Oakmont.
Martin Scorsese, nominated for an Oscar for “Best Director” for the film, is a master of documenting how people get themselves into trouble, and DiCaprio’s character may be his most obnoxious troublemaker so far.
The film showcases quite a bit of slow-motion shots featuring financial brokers in drug-induced deliriums, accompanied by background opera music. Not to mention, the movie comes with a ton of swearing (Variety Magazine reported that “The Wolf of Wall Street” used the word f*** more than any feature film ever made.) The film’s comedy is instantly gratifying—just like the protagonist’s moneymaking schemes must have been – while at the same time leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
The film isn’t about DiCaprio’s character’s overindulgence in drugs, women, or boats. It’s about a powerful man who is crippled by his addictions. His obsession with money is nothing new; DiCaprio’s character is a younger, more carefree and glamorous version of Gordon Gekko (whose signature line was: “greed, for lack of a better word, is good”).
“The Wolf of Wall Street,” for lack of a better word, is good. It was recently nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Motion Picture,” among other honors. However, these nominations may have been awarded thanks to a well-timed release. While Dicaprio’s character made his mistakes in the 90s, it is fitting to watch bankers messing up in the post-recession era.
While Belfort’s fixation on money is nothing new, the film calls attention to the public’s lack of concern towards the boring, technical side of financial ethics. The script often has the protagonist beginning to explain complex financial terms to the audience only to stop midway through, declaring that all we want to see is the naked girls, drugs, and money anyways. This theme is repeated at the end of the film, when the FBI agent that led the investigation against Belfort flips through the newspaper to discover that the story about Belfort’s conviction is just a short blurb in the business section. It is likely that this incident truly occurred when the real Belfort, who is now a motivational speaker, was convicted. Not many people took notice.
The public did take notice of Hollywood’s depiction of the event though, and the movie has already grossed more than $175 million worldwide. You’re probably going to want to watch this film just because everyone’s talking about it. Go ahead, satisfy your curiosity, and just don’t bring high expectations or grandma with you to the theater.