Different people have different Christmas traditions, and this year, for those who chose to venture into the bitter cold to bask in the glory of the latest Scorsese/DiCaprio collaboration, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” their Christmas Day was spent in a turbulent world of sex, drugs, violence, egocentric maniacs, cutthroat businessmen and more drugs. The film, which hit theaters today, December 25, 2013, immerses audiences in the least heartwarming world imaginable for a full three hours before releasing them back into the ordinary world where the almighty dollar doesn’t mean everything.
The film centers on the driven, egomaniacal and extremely persuasive Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who gleefully makes his living defrauding investors. Driven by an insatiable desire for wealth and power, Belfort and his best friend Donnie, played by Jonah Hill, go from selling penny stocks in an old garage to running one of the largest, most aggressive investing firms on Wall Street. Like a twisted version of Robin Hood, Belfort inspires his employees to steal from the rich, and the poor, so they can give to themselves.
They live lives of tremendous excess, full of gorgeous naked women, fast cars, massive houses, gigantic yachts, and a never-ending stream of drugs and money. DiCaprio perfectly portrays Belfort, drawing from the fiery ambition and need for wealth that enveloped his portrayal of Gatsby and his despicable moral compass that guided his performance in “Django Unchained,” DiCaprio turns Belfort into a terrifying creature driven only by greed and ego. Belfort is a charming, but ruthless cannonball of pent-up, coked-up energy that runs on an overly-capitalistic urge to acquire more of everything. He uses the cutthroat mentality that drives him to motivate his employees and he stands in front of them, shouting no-nonsense, powerful, impressive rallying cries encouraging them to join him in his quest for greater riches, and in doing so he allows the audience to recognize the terrifying reality that men like him dominate Wall Street, where, as he notes, none of them are friends.
As audiences quake at the inconceivably corrupt and excessive world that Belfort lives for, they realize that the film offers more than a glimpse into the life of a depraved, money-crazed man; it is a reflection of the insatiable, despicable greed that lies at the core of our society. Scorsese uses Wall Street as the canvas for his image of American greed, and he lets DiCaprio paint the picture with his portrayal of the terrifyingly greedy wolf of Wall Street.
Scorsese recognizes that he has tremendously talented actors in front of his camera, and he lets them dictate the story. He doesn’t condemn or condone Belfort’s actions – he presents him in a real and powerful way, which allows moviegoers to form their own opinions about “the wolf.” It will come as no surprise if a few cast members from “The Wolf of Wall Street” make their way onto the Oscar ballots come January 16, 2014, as this film belonged just as much to them as it did to Scorsese.
Despite the fact that “The Wolf of Wall Street” has an absurdly long runtime, and at times it looked like it should have been given an NC-17 rating, the film is extremely well done and carries with it a powerful message that shouldn’t be missed. “The Wolf of Wall Street” easily clawed its way into the list of the best movies of the year, and movie lovers should certainly make time to see it in theaters.