From the very first scene of the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio (voicing over as Jordan Belfort) states that his Ferrari was white and not red, and the car changes colors as it is changing lanes, you know you are in for a fun ride, and that is precisely what The Wolf Of Wall Street is, a fun caper kind of movie where Martin Scorsese, the director and DiCaprio take you on the wild ride that Jordan Belfort had for approximately a decade in the 1990s.
The premise of the movie is quite simple; Jordan Belfort is a stock broker who has the misfortune of the Black Monday of 1987 ensuring that his stock broking career never takes off. He therefore begins working at a small trading firm where he learns that the brokerage numbers on penny stocks are humungous and therefore decides to make a living peddling these stocks to customers. He is then joined by Donnie Azoff (played wonderfully well by Jonah Hill) and starts their own trading firm – Stratton Oakmont.
From humble beginnings, they go on to make millions of dollars of money and live a life of complete debauchery with parties, sex and drugs ruling their lives in and out of office. Hard-sell and raking in the moolah become Jordan’s credo in life and he soon also becomes addicted to cocaine and ludes (recreational drugs).
His flamboyance and quick rise in Wall Street circles put the FBI and other investigating agencies’ spotlight on him and soon he is being pursued relentlessly by them for various charges of financial and ethical misdemeanor as well as for criminal wrong-doing. How he manages to outwit them for the better part of a decade and how he goes deeper and deeper into his deranged lifestyle form the meat of this movie.
After having read Jordan Belfort’s wiki entry and his own personal website, I am more than convinced that Scorsese’s take on his book of the same name is very true to its subject matter. As Belfort himself testifies on various posts in his blog, he clearly understood that his actions were unethical and illegal, but they also didn’t hurt anybody, they were only ‘white collar crimes’ as they are termed today. Scorsese has taken the book, made it a fun to watch movie where although you understand that the protagonist is doing the wrong thing, you almost end up rooting for him, a bit like rooting for Frank Abignale in Catch Me If You Can (funnily enough played once again by DiCaprio).
Watch out for Matthew McConaughey’s wonderful little cameo as Mark Hanna, Belfort’s first boss and the one who actually kind of ‘guides’ him about the fact that a stock broker should never really worry about whether his clients make enough money or not as long as their brokerage and commissions keep flowing in. He also gently ‘highlights’ the fact that sex and drugs were the only recourse for a highly stressed out stock broker as well. The five odd mins that McConaughey appears on screen are hilarious, memorable and insightful, all at the same time.