I was living in Park Slope last year when they were filming bits of Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I remember back to the summer of 2012 when flyers appeared all over NY looking for extras. I so wish that I had applied- because Wolf of Wall Street is epic.
Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street trader who ended up founding a massive penny stock operation that eventually led to the IPO of shoe designer Steve Madden's company, in a performance that leaves the audience gasping. From the beginning, when Belfort introduces himself and lets us into his perfect life, we're hooked. Who is this guy...and how can any of us end up where he is?
After losing a good job at an established and well respected brokerage firm on 'The Street', Belfort ends up in a shady boiler room in Long Island, where his expensive suit, impeccable grooming, and intense sales performance create a seismic disturbance. Using the penny stocks, he inspires everyone to up their game and goes on to found his own company. The money rolls in so fast that he can't even count it, and thus awakes the sleeping giants of the SEC and the FBI. Because success is one thing, but phenomenal success makes people suspicious.
The story follows Jordan and his crew (including the always amazing Jonah Hill as a Long Island native who quits his job to follow Belfort into the stock game) as they make mo' money, mo' money, mo' money and thoroughly debauch themselves in the process. The elements of the story work together seamlessly as Belfort strives, achieves, and indulges his way to to the top. It could have been just another cautionary tale, but the acting and the dialogue are so fresh and immediate that you get caught up and the characters and their exploits feel exhilaratingly real. Much like those who followed Belfort, the audience is hanging on his every word and laughing at every crazy exploit.
The American Dream is built on audacity. It's built on bravery, risk-taking, and sometimes blatant stupidity. While Belfort and many of his cohorts went to prison, it's hard to entirely take them to task for their actions. They lived life to the fullest and made the most of a situation that was calling for exploitation. Many were down on their luck or people who would never have known riches had it not been for Belfort's training and coaching and belief. They did bad things, but oh! they did them bigger and more gloriously than anyone else.
There is a moment, when Belfort is struggling to get to Monaco in order to save the 20 million that he had secreted in a Swiss bank account, and so many crazy things happen that you can only sit there and applaud the man for his tenacity and perseverance.
Wolf of Wall Street is exciting storytelling, great acting, wonderful scenery and set dressing, and so much fun that it's like a book you can't put down. A great film, and more than anything- a return to amazingly cohesive and intelligent storytelling. It makes you want to find a dream of your won and start making it come true (um, legally, of course).