Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” earned its Oscar nomination. There was some question about whether the Academy would have a problem with the infamy of the main character Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Some have accused Scorsese of glorifying him.
Belfort was convicted of swindling 1,513 people out of millions of dollars. In the ’90s, Belfort founded a brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, which defrauded investors via boiler room pump and dump. A boiler room operation uses high-pressure sales tactics to sell stocks to clients through cold calling. Pump and dump refers to deceitfully inflating the price of cheaply purchased stocks. When the operators “dump” their overvalued shares, the price falls and investors lose their money.
So, yes, Belfort is a despicable guy, but anybody who thinks Scorsese glorified him is missing the whole point of the movie. Belfort is portrayed as the lying, scheming, misogynist, greedmeister that he is. The movie is brilliantly entertaining, just like Scorsese’s previous controversial movies that were nominated for Oscars.
When asked about the backlash he’s getting, Scorsese said, “Go back to 1973 ‘Mean Streets,’ and a few years later ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull,’ ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Casino,’ ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ I’ve had experience with this sort of thing. It’s disappointing at times, it’s frustrating, but on the other hand this film seems to be something people can talk about. There’s a dialogue and that’s exciting. Whether you think something is well made or not, this is a big issue — the values in our society and our culture. I tried to show it profanely and with all of its obscenity.”
“What separates Jordan’s story from others like it is the brutal honesty in which he talks about the mistakes he’s made in his life,” said DiCaprio. Belfort made claims on Facebook and Twitter that although he was ordered to pay 50 percent of the books and movie proceeds to victims, he is instead choosing to give 100 percent. The problem is that once again, Belfort is telling big, fat lies.
DiCaprio also said in the video, “I have been in his [Belfort’s] company many times, but there is nothing quite like Jordan’s public speaking, and his ability to train and empower young entrepreneurs. Jordan stands as a shining example of the transformative qualities of ambition and hard work, and in that regard, he is a true motivator.” Shining example? Yeah, of a sociopath.
Bottom line: Scorsese shows Belfort for the swine he is and the movie is a must-see.